Bulimia recovery and treatment


Bulimia nervosa (also known as just bulimia) is an eating disorder and mental health condition.

When someone has bulimia, they regularly engage in compulsive binge eating and have impulsive cravings for food. Unhealthy compensatory behaviours are often used in an attempt to prevent weight gain after this. These commonly involve 'purging', also known as self-induced vomiting, and the use of laxatives and diuretics. Binges usually occur at least twice a week for at least three months and can happen multiple times each day.

If you think that you or a loved one might be suffering from bulimia, we are here to help. As experts in bulimia recovery and treatment, we are on hand to help you with bulimia recovery.

To start your journey to recovery, get in touch.

Is bulimia a serious eating disorder?

If you are suffering from bulimia, it is easy to underplay the damage that the condition is doing to your health – mentally and physically. However, bulimia is a serious eating disorder that requires urgent treatment.

We have years of experience treating bulimia at Schoen Clinic. Our treatment programmes for bulimia and binge eating are run by multidisciplinary teams (MDTs) to help combat all aspects of the eating disorder.

Our multidisciplinary teams (MDTs) are made up of psychological therapists, expert consultant psychiatrists, occupational therapists, dietitians, nurses and healthcare assistants. With a diverse team of eating disorder specialists, we are able to provide intensive assistance and comprehensive, holistic bulimia treatment. Although every treatment programme is bespoke and tailored to you, bulimia recovery relies on helping you return to a balanced diet and improving your self-esteem.

Schoen Clinic UK Group is an award-winning hospital group providing evidence-based, outcome-focused treatments for eating disorders. We welcome both NHS and private patients at our leading eating disorder hospitals in Birmingham and York, and private patients at our highly specialised eating disorder clinic in Chelsea, London. We are recognised by all major private health insurers and our caring teams are on hand to support you with any queries or claims process.

Start your journey to bulimia recovery today.

What are the symptoms of bulimia?

Somewhat underweight, average weight, overweight, or even obese people can have bulimia nervosa. However, if they are underweight, they are diagnosed with bulimia nervosa rather than anorexia nervosa binge-eating/purging type. Because they do not appear to be underweight and because their habits are concealed, others who are close to them might not be aware that a person has bulimia nervosa.

As with other eating disorders, there is no definitive cause of bulimia. However, there are certain risk factors that can increase the likelihood of developing bulimia.

  • Experience of trauma, including abuse
  • Early puberty
  • Genetic vulnerability shown by a family history of eating disorders or other mental health disorders
  • Low self-esteem
  • Depressive symptoms
  • Anxiety
  • Weight concerns based on the thin ideal body type

There are various factors that can lead you to believe that you need to manage your weight, and these factors may develop gradually before they cause you to engage in unhealthy behaviours like binge eating. You might think that by following these eating habits, you can lose weight or keep your weight stable.

You can develop impulsive eating patterns when you feel compelled to gorge on huge amounts of food because you crave it. Following that, you could have a range of negative feelings and thoughts that cause you to "purge." Shame, disgust with oneself, embarrassment, dread, worry, and a downward spiral of critical self-talk are some of the emotions experienced.

Bulimia treatment and recovery FAQs

Despite the complexity of the causes of bulimia, it is believed that there are four key causes of bulimia:

  • Sociocultural factors – Including the influence of diet culture and the thin ideal.
  • Genetics – The traits which we inherit from our parents can make us more or less susceptible to bulimia.
  • Developmental factors – Our personalities and childhood trauma can be a cause of bulimia.
  • Psychological factors – For example, undiagnosed co-occurring mental illnesses, and biological factors like genetic traits.

To create the ideal bulimia treatment support and strategy in which all underlying triggers may be addressed, it is essential to understand the various possible causes. As bulimia is not tied to a single cause, it is often the case that multiple factors will be at play.

Each person will experience these bulimia nervosa causes and triggers differently. For instance, while some people may only have the biological causes of their bulimia nervosa, others may have ingrained emotional trauma or mental health issues.

The emergence of bulimia is linked to peer pressure, media influences and popular diet fads.

We live in a culture where our physical appearance and body type are used to judge who we are. Sociocultural elements that have been linked to the emergence of bulimia nervosa include emotional stress, substance addiction and the influence of social media.

There is the possibility that your genes or brain function make you more susceptible to developing bulimia, meaning that developing this disorder is not your fault. Hair colour, eye colour, behavioural traits and an increased likelihood of acquiring medical and mental health illnesses are all heritable features that we pass on through families. Despite the lack of a unique gene linked to bulimia nervosa, a familial element seems to play a role in the emergence of eating disorders. The likelihood of developing an eating disorder is higher in first-degree relatives (parents, siblings, and children) than in the general population.

Serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine are neurotransmitters that are connected to bulimia nervosa and other eating disorders. Neurotransmitters are chemicals in the brain that are responsible for mood control. These particular neurotransmitters are also connected to depression, which can result in the emergence of bulimia nervosa.

Childhood is a formative time for our personalities, habits, cognitive processes and actions, so both positive and negative events can have a lasting effect on us well into adulthood.

The later onset of bulimia nervosa is highly correlated with childhood trauma and abuse.

The onset of a mental health issue or poor self-esteem leading to dangerous eating disorders like bulimia is closely correlated with divorce, parent loss, emotional, physical, mental, sexual, and verbal abuse, bullying and neglect.

According to studies, 30% of people who engage in binge-and-purge behaviours also engage in self-harm activities like cutting.

Depression, anxiety and borderline personality disorder are also common in those with bulimia. Therefore, to provide the right bulimia therapy and recovery plan, these underlying psychiatric illnesses must be treated.

Bulimia comes in two forms:

The purging type - An individual with this form of bulimia regularly binges and induces vomiting. Alternatively, they might abuse enemas, diuretics, laxatives, or other bowel-clearing drugs.

The non-purging type - Someone with this form of bulimia uses various inappropriate actions to regulate weight instead of purging after overeating. They might excessively overexercise or fast for long periods of time to compensate.

Most likely, bingeing and purging come to mind when you think of bulimia. These aren't the only signs of the disorder, though. The following signs and symptoms of bulimia include:

  • Feeling faint - A light-headed, weak feeling may be due to low blood pressure
  • Tooth decay - The high acid content of vomit may cause dental sensitivity and decay
  • Throat swelling - Excessive vomiting can cause pain and swelling of the throat
  • Bloody vomit - Blood in the vomit may indicate a ruptured oesophagus
    Haemorrhoids - Some people purge through the overuse of laxatives which can cause damage to the digestive tract. Straining during bowel movements may also leave them with painful haemorrhoids
  • Red eyes - Red eyes may be the result of vomiting forcefully
  • Irregular heartbeat - A weakened heart has to work harder, this increases the risk of heart failure
  • Facial swelling - Puffy or swollen cheeks may be the result of damaged salivary glands
  • Scarred hands - Scars commonly found on the back of the hands occur from the fingers coming into contact with the teeth if the individual uses their fingers to induce vomiting
  • Pregnancy complications - In females, if the bulimia is severe enough to stop ovulation, they won't be able to get pregnant. Bulimia during pregnancy can also put the baby at risk.
  • Dry skin - Purging can deplete your body of water and electrolytes

If you or someone you love is displaying these symptoms, it is important to get professional help. For fast access to bulimia recovery treatment, contact us today.

People with bulimia have an unhealthy relationship with food and an unhealthy eating cycle. A lot of this stems from psychological factors. Some of these include:

  • Fear of reaching a normal weight, or of putting on weight at all
  • Feelings of depression, such as low mood, irritability; and social isolation
  • Having an overwhelming obsession with food, calories, and controlling your diet
  • Body image disturbance and fixation
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Low self-esteem

If you suspect that someone is suffering from bulimia, here are some of the behavioural signs for which to look out:

  • Frequent toilet visits right after meals
  • Unaccounted-for empty food wrappers and containers or large amounts of food vanishing
  • Persistent throat pain
  • Salivary gland swelling in the cheeks
  • Dental decay brought on by gastric acid eroding tooth enamel
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease and heartburn
  • Abuse of laxatives or diet pills
  • Recurring diarrhoea without a cause
  • Feeling lightheaded or faint due to severe purging habits that cause dehydration

People assigned as female at birth tend to experience bulimia nervosa more frequently than those assigned as male − however, it is important to understand that bulimia can happen to anyone. As such, no one should feel ashamed to seek help or support if it is needed.

In most cases, bulimia develops in adolescence or the early stages of adulthood but it is possible to develop at any time in your life. According to the eating disorder charity BEAT, every year, 1% to 2% of the population will develop bulimia.

Bulimia nervosa is now recognised to develop in anyone, regardless of sex, gender, age, race, ethnicity or body shape.
It is also important to note that, as well as the sufferer themselves, bulimia nervosa affects an individual's family, friends and loved ones. As such, it is important to undergo bulimia therapy and dietary treatment as soon as possible.


At Schoen Clinic, we are experts in bulimia treatment and recovery.

To ascertain whether you are suffering from bulimia, your specialist will carry out a physical examination to determine. During this, you will be asked about:

  • Your health history
  • Your current symptoms

It is understandable if you feel anxious when speaking with the team but it is important to remember that they are there to support you and help you to feel better during your bulimia therapy course. Therefore, it is crucial to be open and honest about your symptoms and how you are feeling with the team.

For a diagnosis of bulimia, you will have to meet the following criteria:

  • Do you frequently have binge eating episodes?
  • During an episode, do you feel like you have no control over what you're eating?
  • Do you employ purging behaviours?
  • Have you had binge eating episodes at least once a week for the past three months?
  • Does your body's size or form significantly affect how you feel about yourself?

Although there are no laboratory tests that will identify bulimia, we might prescribe certain tests to assess the impact bulimia has had on your health. Some of these tests include:

  • A blood test
  • Urinalysis
  • Test for kidney function
  • Electrocardiogram (EKG)

Bulimia is a serious condition that has several side effects. One of the most obvious is malnutrition. If sufferers are purging, they run the risk of depleting their body of essential food and nutrients.
Bulimia can also damage almost all of the body's organ systems.

Some health issues it could bring on include:

  • Throat, stomach, and bowel damage
  • Dehydration
  • Dental decay

Rare but potentially catastrophic complications from bulimia might include stomach rupture, oesophageal rips and risky cardiac arrhythmias. It is crucial to monitor patients with severe bulimia so that any potential consequences can be found and treated.

So that sufferers can make a recovery from bulimia, early diagnosis and treatment are crucial.

Unfortunately, there is no sure-fire way to prevent bulimia from developing. That said, if you know the signs of bulimia, you can spot it quickly and ensure early intervention.

If you know that bulimia runs in your family, try to familiarise yourself with the symptoms so that you can identify any issues before they become more difficult to overcome.

In most cases, harmful eating patterns can be broken with early treatment. By receiving therapy for other problems including depression and anxiety disorders, you can lower your risk of developing bulimia nervosa.

Early detection and treatment might lessen symptoms and promote regular development. Try to practise good eating habits and adopt sensible viewpoints towards diet and weight.


Highly specialised bulimia treatment, therapy and support

Bulimia treatment starts by establishing a link between physical and mental health. Using psychoeducation, psychological therapies and awareness of triggers, our team of specialists can support you in your bulimia recovery.

Through a mix of group and one-on-one bulimia therapy sessions, we will help you to develop skills for controlling intrusive negative thoughts and unpredictable impulse control. When you receive highly specialised bulimia therapy, your overall physical and mental wellbeing will be taken into account.

The most effective treatment for bulimia is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). CBT is designed to help you to manage the thoughts and feelings that feed your condition and normalise your eating habits. Antidepressants can also help by reducing the desire to overeat and throw up.

Bulimia treatment typically involves a mix of:

  • Individual therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Nutritional rehabilitation
  • Behavior changes
  • Medicine for depression or anxiety, if required.

Here at Schoen Clinic, we know that everyone is different. This is why we take into account physical, psychological and social factors to give you the best chance of success.

During your bulimia therapy or retreat with us, you will get unrivalled access to support from clinical psychologists, consultant psychiatrists and therapists to manage your stress and get back to healthy eating habits.

Along with assisting you in changing your eating habits, we provide you with the knowledge and confidence that you need to challenge some of the assumptions which contributed to your bulimia and change the way in which you handle emotions.

How we help people with their bulimia recovery journey

At Schoen Clinic we work with you as a person, not as a label.

We are committed to ensuring that you get the best opportunity to explore the feelings, thoughts and actions that have led to your reduction in health and well-being. Restoring your quality of life and how you view yourself and others is our priority.

We know that beneath the label of bulimia is a person who has many roles to fulfil. At our bulimia rehab centre, we will explore these with you and how they can pull you in different directions. Our main goal is to equip you with the skills that you need to go on to live your life freely, without being ruled by an eating disorder.

When you choose bulimia therapy with us, you will get access to a multidisciplinary team with cutting-edge psychological and psychodynamic approaches. Alongside your psychoeducation, you will be taught different skills and development techniques such as mindfulness.

Highly specialised bulimia treatment in the UK

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Eating disorder treatment for young people in London

Private eating disorder treatment in London

Our multidisciplinary team of eating disorder specialists at Schoen Clinic Chelsea have developed a comprehensive and intensive eating disorder treatment programme for young people.

Eating Disorder treatment for adults in London

Private eating disorder treatment in London

Our multidisciplinary team of eating disorder specialists at Schoen Clinic Chelsea comprehensive eating disorder treatment for adults (aged 18+) in London.

Inpatient eating disorder treatment for young people in Birmingham

Inpatient eating disorder treatment in Birmingham

Our multidisciplinary team of eating disorder specialists at Schoen Clinic Newbridge provide award-winning, outstanding care for children and young people (aged 8-18) with eating disorders.

Outpatient eating disorder treatment for young people in Birmingham

Private outpatient eating disorder treatment in Birmingham

Our multidisciplinary team of eating disorder specialists at Schoen Clinic Newbridge provide award-winning, outstanding care for children and young people (aged 12-25) with eating disorders.

Inpatient eating disorder treatment for adults in York

Inpatient eating disorder treatment in York

Our highly specialised eating disorder hospital in York provides expert-led inpatient treatment and care for adults experiencing eating disorders.

Start your journey to bulimia recovery today. Schoen Clinic UK Group is an award-winning hospital group providing evidence-based, outcome-focused treatments for eating disorders. We welcome both NHS and private patients at our leading eating disorder hospitals in Birmingham and York, and private patients at our highly specialised eating disorder clinic in Chelsea, London. We're recognised by all major private health insurers and our caring teams are on hand to support you with any queries or claims process.