Treatment, Explained | How Long Does It Take To Treat Bulimia?

The decision to get treatment for bulimia isn’t easy – it requires finding the right treatment team, navigating the stigma of getting treated for an eating disorder, and a great deal of investment to exact any lasting change. However, one of the main concerns patients have is how long it’s all going to take. After all, some types of treatment may require inpatient care, which can significantly impact a person’s day-to-day life.

That said, understanding the eating disorder treatment process can help you figure out how long you can expect to be working toward recovery. Read on for all the relevant information on bulimia, eating disorder recovery, and the treatment process.

Bulimia Nervosa Explained

An individual suffering from bulimia is usually stuck in a behavior pattern called the binge-purge cycle, which overlaps with binge eating disorder. Bingeing is defined by the consumption of thousands of calories within a short amount of time, usually past the point of satiety. This behavior is accompanied by a sense of guilt about your food intake while also feeling like you can’t control yourself.

On the other hand, purging behaviors are defined by the misuse of laxatives, diuretics, and enemas or elimination of “excess calories” through self-induced vomiting or excessive exercise. A person suffering from bulimia may or may not be underweight, and many folks usually have an average or overweight BMI. This comes with a long list of health complications, but proper treatment can reverse many of these side effects.

Understanding Eating Disorder Recovery: How Long It Takes To Recover From Bulimia

People on every step of the recovery journey ask the same question: how long will it take before I’m fully recovered? Unfortunately, the answer isn’t a clear-cut one. Professional interventions can lead to eating disorder recovery programs that can last a few months to a year, in some very severe cases.

Some people respond better to one-on-one talk therapy, while others prefer working through their problems in a group setting – both are valid forms of treatment, and fit is more important than conforming to popular choices. That’s because the recovery process is anything but linear, and every person experiences the ups and downs differently.

It’s important to note that lasting recovery requires unlearning the unhelpful behaviors, rebuilding self-esteem, and gaining the skills necessary to keep yourself healthy once you’ve graduated from your treatment plan.

Three Important Steps

Whether mental or physical, every problem we have is caused by a mix of biological, psychological, and social or environmental considerations. As a result, individuals with eating disorders must undergo an eating disorder treatment that addresses all three components of their condition.

Addressing Nutrition And Medical Issues

The first step every person needs to take when they want to recover from bulimia is to address other health concerns. Because the violent cycle of bingeing and purging can be detrimental to your body, you may be suffering from reproductive issues, brittle bones, or even symptoms of diabetes.

Your treatment team needs to ensure that your body is in good shape, and this is done through medication, medical treatment, and food education.


Medication can manage symptoms and treat underlying conditions that may get in the way of recovery. This can include stabilizing your blood pressure and other vital signs and restoring your energy levels. But more than that, medical treatment seeks to ensure all other conditions caused by the eating disorder are properly managed before moving on to the psychological skill-building aspect of recovery.

Nutritional Education

While eating disorders are hardly ever about body weight and food alone, providing proper education and reliable information is still one of the best ways to combat disordered eating behaviors like bingeing and purging. Food education usually means learning how to plan nutritious meals, understanding healthy eating, and ensuring that your body gets the energy stores it requires to live a happy and healthy life.

Psychiatric Bulimia Treatment

Once the underlying physical conditions have been addressed, your team will begin the step-by-step procedure of understanding and correcting untrue beliefs about yourself. This requires working through the issues or trauma that might have triggered the eating disorder. Note that this part of recovery usually takes the longest, but it’s essential all the same.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy

Dialectical behavior therapy seeks to bring two opposites – acceptance and change – to support recovery and attain long-lasting results. DBT encourages unlearning unhelpful behaviors while also accepting yourself as you are, which can help an individual who seeks to change their appearance through disordered eating habits.

Family Therapy

Like the name suggests, family therapy seeks to include your family members in your recovery to address some dysfunctional dynamic or educate your loved ones on how to support you. This type of therapy is extremely popular when dealing with eating disorders because of their efficacy, especially if the patient is a child, teen, or young adult living with their families.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

CBT is one of the most common psychological procedures, and it’s utilized across the board to treat several types of mental health conditions. It aims to change the “automatic” thoughts people have about themselves, which can contribute to their eating disorder. In short, it attempts to reframe the way you think.

Tackling The Environmental Component

Inpatient treatment is one thing, but what happens when a person comes out of care and finds that they don’t know how to cope with the stresses of everyday life? Luckily, with a meticulously plotted recovery plan, you should be able to return to your regular day-to-day activity without much commotion.

That’s because experienced mental health professionals usually prep you for a lapse/relapse prevention plan, which helps patients cope with external factors. This can include setting boundaries, removing yourself from situations that may trigger your eating disorder, and how well you stick to proper eating habits.

Don’t Wait To Get Treatment

“How long does recovery take?” is a question that’s on a lot of people’s minds when they consider seeking professional help for their condition. However, duration is infinitely less important than the quality of service people get. If you’re looking to find professional care, send us a message so we can plan the best recovery path for you.

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