A-Z Teen Health Glossary

Teen Bulimia Nervosa Treatment

Teen bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder, wherein a teen is obsessed with their body weight and appearance. When struggling with bulimia, teens will often binge-eat and then purge their food, using medication or by physically inducing vomiting. Teens with bulimia also might binge and then fast, or engage in dangerous levels of exercise, to lose weight. Although it is more common in teen girls, boys also experience bulimia.

What Does Teen Bulimia Nervosa Look Like?

  • Teen bulimia nervosa is a serious mental illness in which teens are obsessed with their body weight and appearance and will go to severe and at times life-threatening lengths to try to lose weight.
  • Teens with bulimia exhibit behavioral cycles of binging, purging, and then experiencing shame.
  • Teens with bulimia will purge their food by means such as vomiting, diuretics, laxatives, or enemas.
  • Teens with bulimia usually do not drop excessively below normal weight, though they may lose a considerable amount of weight in an unhealthily quick amount of time.
  • Beyond having a distorted perception about their appearance, teens with bulimia give unusual importance to their appearance and its effect on other aspects of life. Because teens have such an obsession with maintaining their weight, they’ll often make efforts to hide their behaviors.
  • Those with teen bulimia nervosa also often experience symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Signs of Teen Bulimia Nervosa

Chronically sore, irritated throat

Often using the bathroom directly after meals

Dental problems, such as worn tooth enamel, due to teeth being exposed to stomach acid

Acid reflux disorder

Digestion problems and swollen salivary glands


How Can I Help My Teen With Bulimia Nervosa?

The most important thing is to get help immediately. Eating disorders are not to be ignored or considered harmless, and even if your teen thinks that they are simply watching their figure, the physical and mental consequences of long-term bulimia nervosa are very dangerous.

If your teen is in treatment already, then informing yourself on disordered eating can help tremendously. Do research on healthy eating habits and key points for helping teens transition from an eating disorder to a healthier relationship with food. With your support, your teen can continue to manage their urges, correct self-loathing thinking, and stick to a healthier diet after teen bulimia nervosa treatment.

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Teen Bulimia Nervosa Treatment | Paradigm Malibu

What Are The Causes of Teen Bulimia Nervosa?

Bulimia nervosa does not have a directly apparent cause. Most causes involve other psychological or emotional issues. Emotional trauma from bullying or from a PTSD event may trigger self-esteem issues that lead to bulimia. Body dysmorphia – interpreting your appearance as worse than what it really is – can also lead to bulimia, as a person interprets their mirror image as larger than they are.

Excessive dieting may lead to bulimia. By obsessing over calories, weight, and image, a teen may develop a complex leading to binging and purging cycles, with accompanying emotional problems such as shame and self-loathing from both the binging and the purging.

Teens with a family history of disordered eating have a higher chance of developing an eating disorder, including bulimia.


of teens with bulimia also suffer from depression


people in the U.S. suffer from an eating disorder


of teens with bulimia will not seek treatment

What Types of Teen Bulimia Nervosa Treatment Are Available at Paradigm Malibu?

Teen bulimia nervosa treatment begins with helping teens understand how their relationship to food and weight can be dangerous, and why it is flawed. Although taking care of one’s appearance can be healthy, and both clean eating as well as regular exercise is part of a healthy life, disordered eating – including constant binging and purging – puts a massive strain on the body, quickly wearing it out. Teens with bulimia often struggle with huge self-esteem issues, and potential body dysmorphia – a condition that gives them a distorted and warped view of their body.

Talk Therapy

After addressing their relationship to food, a therapist will go through ways to regulate and manage this relationship, helping a teen figure out what thoughts and feelings trigger their need to purge or binge, as well as helping them schedule and manage their food to avoid overeating or unhealthy amounts of fasting. Talk therapy is a significant part of this process.

Through several different approaches of talk therapy, therapists work with teens to help identify false belief systems they may have and work to replace them with positive, healthy messages. This can provide the foundation for teens to begin rebuilding confidence and a stronger sense of self, independent of their physical appearance.


Depending on other additional symptoms a teen may be experiencing, such as symptoms of depression or anxiety, sometimes therapists may prescribe medication. Medication can help a teen work through severe depressive thoughts that may stand in the way of making progress in therapy.

Lastly, Paradigm Malibu also works with teens in group sessions and family sessions, to help put in place a healthy support system to which the teen can return. Also, these sessions can be extremely helpful for family members and parents, who often have stresses and questions of their own, related to their own experience.

The team at Paradigm is nothing short of amazing. They work diligently together to create an open, safe, honest space for the adolescents, siblings and parents to begin to rebuild their relationship with themselves and each other after the traumas of drug abuse, depression, anxiety, eating disorders and more.”
- Linda

Frequently Asked Questions About Teen Bulimia Nervosa

Can bulimia be life-threatening?

Bulimia is very different from normal and healthy exercising and eating. Binge eating, and purging can lead to malnourishment, put excessive amounts of stress on your teen’s organs, and rapidly fluctuating weight can also lead to deficiencies and health issues. It is possible to get hospitalized after excessive purging due to a lack of electrolytes, and bulimia can become life-threatening if taken too far. Another danger is an irregular heartbeat, as well as kidney failure, stomach rupture, or throat cancer from constant acid reflux and vomiting.

Can my teenager get outpatient treatment for teen bulimia?

There are several good, effective treatment centers and resources available for teens with Bulimia, including outpatient options. The most important thing is for you to get your teen professional help. Eating disorders are serious, especially because they might mask themselves as normal behavior, rather than an unhealthy fixation with weight and food. If your teen exhibits common symptoms – such as regularly going to the bathroom, having a consistently sore throat, and rapidly losing weight – speak with them, and talk to them about getting help. Outpatient treatment is different from residential treatment in that it simply involves regularly visiting a treatment facility to speak with a therapist or get medication. We find that residential treatment offers a unique intensive approach to making considerable strides toward recovery in a relatively short amount of time. Often, with the distractions and stresses of life put temporarily on hold, teens can really focus on and engage in their treatment, which makes for the most successful and lasting effects.

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