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What treatments are used for bulimia nervosa?

In this report, we considered the efficacy of the treatments typically offered for bulimia nervosa: medications (e.g., antidepressants) and various behavioral health therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). We also considered how certain types of treatments are delivered for example, self-help versus therapist-led CBT. The treatments considered in this report may have been used alone or in combination (e.g., medication plus CBT). Varying amounts of clinical evidence exist about how well various treatments work. For some treatments, little or no evidence is available from clinical research studies about how well they work.

Information about the effectiveness of treatments is in the section "How well do the treatments work?"

Treatment is delivered through various levels of inpatient and outpatient care settings. The setting depends on the severity of the illness and the treatment plan that has been developed for a patient. A multidisciplinary team should develop the plan in consultation with the patient and family members as deemed appropriate by the patient and his or her team. The team should be experienced in treating bulimia nervosa and should include at least a medical doctor, psychologist, psychopharmacologist (if drug therapy is planned), and a nutritionist. The patient's family doctor should be consulted, and both the patient's family doctor and dentist should be informed of the plan as well.


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Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder in which a person engages in binge eating (eating a lot of food in a short time) followed by some type of behavior to prevent weight gain from the food that was eaten. This behavior can take two forms: self-induced vomiting, misuse of enemas, laxatives, diet pills (called purging) and excessive exercise, fasting, or diabetic omission of insulin (called non-purging). Some people with bulimia nervosa may also starve themselves for periods of time before binge eating again. Bulimia nervosa has important mental, emotional, and physical aspects that require consideration during treatment.

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