In addition, group therapy has been found especially effective for bulimics. Antidepressant medications also may be an effective way of treating bulimia.

In outpatient treatment, bulimic patients are often asked to keep a food intake diary, making sure they eat three meals a day of moderate caloric intake, even if they are still binge eating. Exercise is limited, and if the patient becomes compulsive about it, it is not permitted at all.

In the treatment of both anorexia and bulimia nervosa, family support is extremely important, especially in helping the recovering anorexic or bulimic with everyday tasks, such as grocery shopping.

In many cases, anorexic and bulimic patients and their families will attend family counseling sessions. Even after the eating disorder has been controlled, follow-up counseling for the patient, as well as the patient’s family, may be recommended.

While many people with an eating disorder will recover fully, relapse is common and may occur months or even years after treatment. An estimated 5 to 10 percent of anorexics will die from the disorder; their deaths most commonly result from starvation, suicide or electrolyte imbalance. More favorable outcomes for anorexics have been associated with a younger age of onset of the disorder, less denial, less immaturity, and improved self-esteem.

The outcome for bulimia nervosa is not as well documented, and mortality rates are not yet known. It is a chronic, cyclic disorder. Of those bulimics who are treated for the disorder, fewer than one-third will be fully recovered three years after treatment, more than one-third will show some improvement in their symptoms at a three-year follow-up, and about one-third will resume chronic symptoms within three years.

Finding a Health Care Provider

The treatment of eating disorders may be provided by a variety of specialists, including internal medicine physicians, psychiatrists, psychologists, clinical social workers, nurses and dietitians.