A serious eating disorder characterized by uncontrollable episodes of eating large amounts of food followed by purging (self-induced vomiting) to avoid gaining weight, bulimia eating disorder will impact almost two percent of adult women in their lifetime.
Although bulimia nervosa, like all other eating disorders, is a pervasive mental health disorder, evidence-based bulimia nervosa treatment provided by eating disorder therapists in residential facilities is highly effective and strongly contributes to long-term recovery.
In addition to dialectical behavioral therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) represents another psychotherapeutic technique that can help clients with bulimia nervosa learn to rationally evaluate and accept unpleasant emotions and thoughts without feeling compelled to act on them.
Bulimia Treatment Using Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
One of ACT’s main goals is to allow bulimia nervosa clients to safely experience a state of “creative hopelessness,” or the realization that eating disorder behaviors do nothing to relieve their anxiety and depression.
For example, therapists applying ACT will point out to clients that although they may have lost 50 pounds or more, they still feel “fat” and are unsatisfied with their body image. By showing a client that struggling to control or repress distressing emotions inevitably causes even more distress that perpetuates symptoms of bulimia eating disorder.
Inducing “creative hopelessness” helps clients develop a stronger sense of behavioral flexibility and mindful acceptance of unwanted emotions. As a subtype of behavior therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy involves utilizing traditional behavioral approaches to bulimia nervosa and other eating disorders, such as self-monitoring and exposure therapy.
In addition, ACT inspires clients to stop struggling with distressful feelings and thoughts by using mindful acceptance techniques that further promote the motivation to let go of eating disorder behaviors. Bulimia nervosa treatment therapists believe that the lack of motivation to change is associated with the narrow view clients hold regarding their life goals – how they appear and restricting food intake to achieve their idea of perfection.
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and Mindfulness
Mindfulness is learning how to maintain focused awareness of the moment instead of drifting into thoughts or emotions derived from prior experiences. Clients in bulimia nervosa treatment recovery programs are taught how to be mindful by therapists using evidence-based techniques that help increase awareness of the five senses while staying in touch with “in the moment” emotions. ACT does not endeavor to stop or modify unwanted feelings or thoughts but encourages clients to develop a compassionate, personal relationship with their unique experiences.
Mindful awareness is an important component of accepting and committing to allowing unpleasant external and internal experiences occur instead of coping unproductively with bulimia eating disorder behaviors. For example, individuals are taught to recognize negative thoughts like “I am a failure as a person” and change the thought to “I am having a thought that I am a failure.”
This cognitive exercise separates clients from the self-identifying aspect of negative thoughts and significantly reduces the ability of that thought to provoke fearful, anxious emotions. Therapists may instruct clients experiencing panic and anxiety during bulimia nervosa recovery to breathe deeply and use mindfulness techniques to allow themselves to “make room” for the fullness of the anxiety without minimizing or worsening it.
Bulimia nervosa treatment programs available at residential eating disorder centers are individualized to ensure clients receive the right kind of therapy best suited to address their unique needs. If you or someone you know is suffering from an eating disorder, call today to learn more about getting help for bulimia nervosa, anorexia nervosa, binge eating disorder and all other types of eating disorders.