Can Medication Help In Recovery?
Even the strongest proponents of drug therapy do not recommend treatment based entirely on medication. No “magic pill” can fully resolve the emotional and spiritual issues underlying their bulimic behavior. Still, recent scientific data does support the use of antidepressants for the treatment of select patients with bulimia as part of a complete program administered by a treatment team. A consistent finding of many studies is that cognitivebehavioral psychotherapy alone is superior to solely using antidepressants, and sometimes the combination of medication and psychotherapy is even more effective (Garfinkel, 1997).
This is a controversial subject among clinicians. Most agree that individuals with eating disorders have mood disturbances, and many argue that bulimia is related to major affective disorder, the psychiatric family under which major depression is classified. Evidence also suggests that the cause of eating disorders might be traced to hereditary, genetic, and biological factors, including abnormalities of the hypothalamus, a gland in the brain which regulates many bodily functions.
Fluoxetine (brand name Prozac®) is the most widely-used antidepressant for bulimia, and many patients and therapists report good results from it as well as others, such as tricyclics (TCA’s) and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAO’s). However, antidepressants do not work for everyone, nor will any kind of treatment. Mood stabilizers, such as lithium carbonate, anxiolytics, and opiate antagonists have generally not been found to be effective in the treatment of bulimia (Garfinkel, 1997).
Some bulimics have responded well to drug treatment and have reduced the cravings to binge within weeks. Many of these patients have a history of depression, although being caught in the cycle of bulimic behavior can certainly cause depression as well. Some bulimics benefit from these medications because of chemical changes in their bodies related to hunger and satiety. Draw your own conclusions by consulting with a professional trained in the pharmacological treatment of bulimia.
Many people in our survey had experience with drug therapy. Close to 60% of those who had used antidepressants found them helpful in recovery. Several women indicated that drug therapy decreased their cravings to binge, allowing the issues that fueled the binge-purge behavior to surface.
Two of many psychiatrists I tried were biochemically oriented, and willing to modify pharmaceutical rules based on their own experience. We kept trying different doses and medicines until something worked.
I started using Prozac, and it really helped me. My urge to binge lessened practically overnight. It made me feel more ready for therapy.
I am being treated with Parnate (an MAO inhibitor) which has changed my life. It offers a “normal” mood, as well as freedom from binges. Of course, therapy in conjunction with medication is the ideal situation, and I’m trying that too. I don’t think one without the other would do.￼
Reprinted with permission from Bulimia: A Guide to Recovery
By Lindsey Hall and Leigh Cohn
To find out more about this helpful book click here.