Seek Professional Help Immediately
“The most important thing to do is to seek professional help as soon as possible,” Udall-Weiner said. Find a mental health practitioner – such as a psychologist, social worker or counselor – who specializes in eating disorders. Research has shown that cognitive behavioral therapy and interpersonal psychotherapy are helpful for reducing bulimia symptoms (Websites such as Bulimia.com have a therapist directory you can search.) It’s also vital to see a physician for a medical evaluation.
“Many people underestimate the health risks associated with bulimia,” she said. Bulimia can cause severe tooth decay, damage to the esophagus, osteoporosis, dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. Dehydration can lead to liver and kidney damage, seizures and muscle paralysis. Electrolyte imbalance can trigger heart problems, such as arrhythmia and even death. In fact, “mortality rates for bulimia are estimated to be as high as 3 percent.”
People with bulimia also might struggle with other disorders, such as depression, anxiety and substance abuse. Trauma is more common in bulimia than other eating disorders. So it’s important for treatment to address these concerns, as well, Schulherr said. If your symptoms are severe, you might need to attend an outpatient program 4 or 5 times a week, or a residential program, which typically lasts 4 to 6 weeks, she said.