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As children grow into teens and young adults, it is completely normal for parents to worry about their well-being. With so many changes happening internally and externally, kids are bound to run into a few roadblocks in their teens. While it is normal to experience difficulties or new stressors during this time, if parents suspect their teens have developed an eating disorder, such as bulimia eating disorder, they should offer support and guidance. Early intervention is key when it comes to bulimia treatment, so parents should act quickly to find an appropriate recovery program that is appropriate for their child or adolescent.

At Clementine and our affiliate bulimia treatment centers, we are proud to provide a safe, welcoming and supportive setting for adolescents to get the help they need on the road to recovery. Here, parents will find options for both bulimia inpatient treatment, also known as day treatment in some cases. Keep reading to learn more about bulimia treatment near you.

What Is Bulimia Nervosa?

Before parents begin the search for bulimia nervosa treatment, it is best to first understand the condition and how it can affect young teens. Bulimia nervosa, also commonly referred to as bulimia, is a mental health condition characterized by recurring episodes of binge eating. As teens binge eat, they consume large quantities of food in a relatively short period of time. They often feel embarrassed or shameful during and after a binge eating episode. They then purge the excess calories they have consumed. Typically, people with bulimia nervosa will use a combination of purging tactics including forced vomiting, fasting, excessive exercise, laxative use and diet pills.

Bulimia nervosa often develops during adolescence, with the condition affecting both girls and boys. However, bulimia nervosa cases are five times higher among girls than boys. People with bulimia eating disorder often have an intense fear of gaining weight, but are often able to maintain what most medical professionals consider to be a “normal” weight for their age and height. Because of this, detecting bulimia nervosa based on outward appearance can be difficult for most parents.

Teenage Bulimia Nervosa Statistics

  • Bulimia nervosa is the second most common eating disorder among adolescents
  • Children can begin to develop bulimia as early as fiveyears of age
  • Teens who have bulimia typically eat more than twotimes what their peers eat during a binge
  • On average, anywhere from 85 to 95 percent of people with bulimia nervosa are female
  • Teens can experience symptoms of both anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa simultaneously. In fact, half of all teens diagnosed with anorexia nervosa also have bulimia nervosa
  • Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any known mental illness

What Causes Bulimia Nervosa?

While the exact cause of eating disorders, such as bulimia nervosa is unknown, experts suggest a combination of factors may make some people more likely to develop them than others. Everything from certain personality traits to environmental factors and genetics may cause teens to develop bulimia nervosa. Research suggests bulimia nervosa can also begin with a dissatisfaction over one’s weight, body size and shape. People with bulimia nervosa often have a great fear of becoming overweight and typically have low self-esteem. Additionally, bulimia nervosa tends to run in families, which suggests the disorder has a strong genetic component.

Common Symptoms of Bulimia Nervosa

While most parents have seen depictions of anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa in film, many do not recognize the warning signs in real life right away. As children grow from elementary school kids to blossoming young adults, there are a few major warning signs of bulimia eating disorder to look out for, including:

  • Using the bathroom directly after meals
  • Uncontrollable eating followed by purging behaviors
  • Depression and mood swings
  • Fear or embarrassment when eating around others
  • Frequent dieting and a preoccupation with weight
  • Vomiting or abusing laxative and diuretics
  • Excessive exercise despite illness, injury, fatigue and social commitments
  • Irregular periods or loss of periods completely in girls
  • Dental issues including yellow or stained teeth and tooth enamel loss

Health Risks Associated with Bulimia Nervosa

One of the main reasons to seek bulimia treatment for teens as soon as possible is to limit their risk of developing severe medical complications. While teens with bulimia nervosa may appear to be outwardly similar to other kids their age, they may be dealing with a multitude of internal issues. Most commonly, teens with bulimia nervosa complain of digestive issues and may experience chemical and electrolyte imbalances. Other common medical complications they may experience include:

  • Low thyroid and hormone levels
  • Anemia
  • Gastrointestinal complaints, such as acid reflux and constipation
  • Cavities and tooth sensitivity
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Dehydration
  • Irregular or slow heartbeat
  • Self-harming, depression and suicidal thoughts
  • Heart attack
  • Ruptures in the esophagus and stomach
  • Impaired immune functioning

What Are the Five Most Common Treatment Options for Bulimia Nervosa?

In many ways, treatment for anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are similar. However, if parents suspect their child has bulimia nervosa, it is best to research bulimia treatment centers specifically. Treatment for anorexia and bulimia requires patients and their loved ones consider both their psychological and physical needs. Because each person diagnosed with bulimia nervosa is unique, there is not one tried-and-true treatment program to rely on. In fact, many patients may work through one or more treatment programs before they find success.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is probably the most common and well-known treatment for both anorexia and bulimia. This treatment option is based on the theory that a person’s thoughts, behaviors and emotions are all interconnected. Therefore, they can be restructured to support new thoughts and actions. With cognitive behavioral therapy, patients take an in-depth look at the role their thoughts and actions play in maintaining an eating disorder. Some examples of the most common maintaining factors that teens with eating disorders may experience include:

  • Cognitions(thoughts): Negative body image, over-evaluating body shape and weight, low self-worth, perfectionism
  • Behaviors(actions): Weight controlling behaviors like binge-eating and purging, self-harming, fasting, dieting and body avoidance

With cognitive behavioral therapy, patients are guided by a therapist as they learn to examine the thoughts and behaviors surrounding their eating disorder and set new goals that will help them replace those negative behaviors with new, positive behaviors.

Interpersonal Therapy

Many bulimia treatment centers offer interpersonal therapy as part of their recovery program. This type of therapy is based on the idea that how a person relates to others impacts their mental and emotional health. With interpersonal therapy, patients take a look at how their problems may stem from the personal relationships in their lives and what they can do to help improve them. While most often used as a treatment option for young adults and adults, interpersonal therapy may be something teens consider as part of a long-term treatment plan.

Family Therapy

A strong support system is instrumental in the anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa recovery process. As families search for a bulimia treatment center near you, remember that family therapy is often recommended for adolescent patients. Family members are considered an essential part of the treatment process and are called upon to help with re-establishing healthy communication and relationships within the family system.


Certain medications may also be used as part of bulimia inpatient treatment and day treatment programs. Currently, the only FDA-approved medication available for bulimia patients is fluoxetine or Prozac. These types of medications are used to help treat depression, an often co-occurring mental disorder, that can contribute to common symptoms of bulimia nervosa.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

Also known as ACT, acceptance and commitment therapy is designed to help patients focus on changing their actions rather than the thoughts and feelings they may have in regard to their eating disorder. They are taught to identify core values and push toward reaching goals that fulfill these new values. Utilizing acceptance and commitment therapy, teens are taught that pain and anxiety are normal parts of life and learn to acknowledge these feelings, while also moving forward in their life and recovery.

Bulimia Residential Treatment vs. Outpatient Treatment

Once parents and teens have a better idea of the types of therapy available to them as they begin on the road to recovery, it is important to consider the appropriate level of care they will need for success. Typically, when families search for “bulimia treatment near me,” they will find options for either residential eating disorder treatment or outpatient/day treatment programs.

Residential Treatment for Eating Disorders

Residential treatment programs are usually best for teens who are experiencing both medical and psychiatric issues stemming from their eating disorder. If they have unstable vital signs or co-existing medical complications like a heart murmur or diabetes, they can greatly benefit from access to medical treatment. Additionally, if a patient has been deemed psychiatrically unstable with rapidly worsening symptoms or suicidal thoughts, they can benefit from a residential treatment program.

This is a more intensive treatment option for teens that temporarily removes them from the stressors sometimes associated with school, work and social activities. Transitioning back into school can sometimes be a difficult process for teens after completing their residential treatment program. With the help of a strong support system and continued counseling, they have a better chance of making a smooth transition back into their day-to-day lives.

Outpatient or Day Treatment for Eating Disorders

Outpatient treatment is a great option for patients who are medically and psychiatrically stable, but still need enhanced support. It is important to note that day treatment patients have been found to have less severe symptoms, and as such, do not require daily medical monitoring and can continue to make progress with less-intensive counseling.

Clementine Eating Disorder Treatment for Adolescents

At Clementine, families will find a safe, comfortable and home-like setting where teens can learn to navigate the challenges of life after recovering from an eating disorder. With a dedicated team of medical doctors, psychiatric specialists, skilled nurses, nutritionists and support staff, teens have all the tools they need to make a full recovery from anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa. Offering the highest level of medical and psychiatric care outside of a hospital setting, parents can rest easy knowing their children are receiving the best care possible at Clementine.

Want to learn more about the treatment programs offered at Clementine? Call 855.900.2221 or contact our friendly admissions team online today for more information.