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How long does it take to recover from Bulimia?

Posted Apr 28 2011 3:00am

One question that people often ask is “how long does it take to recover from bulimia?” It is first important to understand that eating disorders do not develop overnight, and as such, you can’t expect someone to recover overnight. There are some people who are able to extinguish ED behaviors in a short amount of time, while others may take months or even years to decrease the frequency of binges, as they slowly resolve the underlying issues that trigger eating disorder behaviors.

Another important point to keep in mind is that relapses may occur as part of the recovery process. However, they should not be taken as signs of failure, but rather viewed as an opportunity to help the client better understand underlying issues and current day triggers.

The time it takes to contain episodes of binging and purging that characterize this eating disorder differs from person to person. One of the most important factors effecting recovery from bulimia is having the readiness and motivation to change.

Some of first steps towards change include:

• Telling others that you have a problem and seeking support
• Learning to take back control of eating habits with the help of a dietician or nutritionist.
• Learning to accept your body’s natural shape and size.
• Working in therapy to improve family and social relationships
• Challenging distorted thought processes

Available Treatment Methods

Here is a description of the various methods that may be adopted as part of bulimia treatment:

• Dialectical-Behavioral Therapy (DBT) – DBT mixes cognitive and behavioral therapies to help patients learn skills for emotional and affect regulation. Utilizing this therapy, patients learn to identify underlying emotional triggers that lead to eating disorder behaviors. Patients develop various alternative coping strategies to combat these emotional triggers.

• Medication – Medication therapy can be an effective tool to help clients manage the emotional symptoms of Bulimia such as depression or anxiety. Medication therapy should always be overseen by a licensed Psychiatrist and works best in conjunction with psychotherapy.

• CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) – CBT is a necessary component of effective bulimia nervosa treatment. This type of therapy focuses on helping clients identify disruptive thought patterns and beliefs that lead to episodes of binging and purging. Clinicians who utilize CBT typically help clients focus on taking back power and control over their thought processes and resulting behavior. Clients are taught affective expression and emotional regulation skills to manage the emotional symptoms of Bulimia.

• Internal Family Systems Therapy - this model of therapy is based on the premise that people can learn to relate to their inner emotions or “parts” from a loving, compassionate place. It provides a way for clients to focus inside on and listen to their feelings and emotions without being overwhelmed. Clients can learn to identify the function of their eating disorder symptoms and learn to step back from these urges.

These are just a few suggestions of therapy modalities that can help in your recovery from bulimia. The length of time it takes you to completely recover from bulimia is about you, your specific symptoms and underlying causes, and how you respond to treatment.  You should consider every small step in your progress as a great achievement.

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