Bulimia nervosa psychotherapy

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]; Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Yashasvi Aryaputra[2]


Psychotherapy, and more specifically, cognitive behavioral therapy, has been proven very effective in treating individuals who suffer from bulimia nervosa. For younger adolescents, family based treatment is the more viable option.


Cognitive behavioral therapy is commonly used in treating bulimia nervosa. Cognitive behavioral therapy targets the emotional fluctuations that cause regular bulimic episodes. This treatment is shown to be effective in adults, but little study has been done to show its effectiveness in children. The goal of cognitive behavioral therapy is to make individuals more aware of the consequences of their actions, and the harm that constant binging and purging can bring. Cognitive behavioral therapy is a cost efficient treatment option.[1][2][3]

Family based treatment is a more efficient options for adolescents. Cognitive behavioral therapy requires the individual to grasp the dangerous consequences of the path that they are taking. While an adult might have no problem understanding this concept, it might be hard for an adolescent to comprehend. Family based treatment helps give adolescents the help and support they need from their families.[4][5][6]


  1. Hay PP, Bacaltchuk J, Stefano S, Kashyap P (2009). "Psychological treatments for bulimia nervosa and binging". Cochrane Database Syst Rev (4): CD000562. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD000562.pub3. PMID 19821271.
  2. Agras WS, Crow SJ, Halmi KA, Mitchell JE, Wilson GT, Kraemer HC (2000). "Outcome predictors for the cognitive behavior treatment of bulimia nervosa: data from a multisite study". Am J Psychiatry. 157 (8): 1302–8. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.157.8.1302. PMID 10910795.
  3. Wilson GT, Loeb KL, Walsh BT, Labouvie E, Petkova E, Liu X; et al. (1999). "Psychological versus pharmacological treatments of bulimia nervosa: predictors and processes of change". J Consult Clin Psychol. 67 (4): 451–9. PMID 10450615.
  4. Keel PK, Haedt A (2008). "Evidence-based psychosocial treatments for eating problems and eating disorders". J Clin Child Adolesc Psychol. 37 (1): 39–61. doi:10.1080/15374410701817832. PMID 18444053.
  5. Le Grange D, Lock J, Dymek M (2003). "Family-based therapy for adolescents with bulimia nervosa". Am J Psychother. 57 (2): 237–51. doi:10.1176/appi.psychotherapy.2003.57.2.237. PMID 12817553.
  6. Castro-Fornieles J, Bigorra A, Martinez-Mallen E, Gonzalez L, Moreno E, Font E; et al. (2011). "Motivation to change in adolescents with bulimia nervosa mediates clinical change after treatment". Eur Eat Disord Rev. 19 (1): 46–54. doi:10.1002/erv.1045. PMID 20872926.

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