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The Vicious Cycle of Bulimia

Bulimia is a vicious cycle. You may desperately want to break free, but don’t know how!

You think:

“Surely I can maintain my diet. I am going to do it properly this time!”


“I am going to stop binging, I promise myself I will stop.”


“I will lose some weight and then just maintain it.”

But none of this works, instead you find yourself on a dieting-binging cycle, which includes compensating for binging through exercise or purging.

And what’s worse, you find it hard to eat normally. You can’t remember how to do it! Even if you try, you obsess over what you ate and fear weight gain.

Why Bulimia is a Vicious Cycle

There are a number of reasons bulimia is a vicious cycle and whilst it can vary from person to person, these are the main reasons:

Dieting sets you up for binging.

Dieting puts your body into a “starvation” mode. This means you crave food. Even if you’re not consciously thinking about food, your body will crave it. Our minds have a way of tricking us into eating if we need it – and once you break a dieting “rule”,  all “control” goes out the window.

Purging reinforces binging.

If you purge, you are unconsciously giving yourself permission to binge. That is, a binge is not perceived as super harmful to weight if you purge afterwards. Therefore, purging makes binging easier. For more reasons why you binge, read Why it can be Hard to Stop Binging.

Binging encourages food compensation.

Normally, if you binge, you seek out ways to compensate for the food you’ve eaten. You may exercise excessively, induce vomiting, use laxatives and resume dieting again.

You highly value your weight and shape (or control over food).

The importance you place on your weight and shape (or control over food) means you are motivated to diet and chastise yourself for failings (i.e. binging) – therefore, making yourself purge and diet again.

Weight loss feels good.

You like feeling light, clothes feeling loose, people commenting, and feeling in control. You strive for the Adrenalin rush that comes with weight loss, and as such, continue to diet and try to lose weight.

There are other reinforcing relationships within bulimia, but let’s not complicate an already complicated disorder.

What Does Bulimia Treatment Involve?

At a minimum, Bulimia treatment should involve weekly psychology sessions, where an evidence-based therapy, such a CBT-E (Cognitive-behavioural Therapy – Enhanced) or DBT (Dialectical Behaviour Therapy) is used. Treatment is most effective if a dietician and GP are also involved. A dietician will help you gain confidence with eating and reduce your fear of weight gain. While a GP will monitor your health, which can be greatly compromised if you have an eating disorder. Often people suffering eating disorders will also require medication via a psychiatrist to manage extreme moods of depression and anxiety. Read Eating Disorder Help in Melbourne: What’s Out There? to understand all of your treatment options.

Does Bulimia Treatment Work?

Yes!! If you commit to regular sessions with your treatment team, regardless of how you are feeling, you should see results. But it’s important to note, treatment is not short-term, studies show it takes a minimum of 20 psychology sessions to recover from bulimia. However, recovery is worth it: You will gain your freedom back and start to feel good about yourself.

How can Peaceful Mind Psychology Help?

We are a team of warm and experienced psychologists, who have a specialised interest in eating disorder treatment. Our psychologists are competent and experienced in eating disorder treatments for Bulimia, including: Cognitive-behavioural Therapy-Enhanced (CBT-E), Interpersonal Psychotherapy, and Dialectical Behavioural Therapy .

Peaceful Mind Psychology also offers group therapy for eating disorders and information sessions for carers and families. If you would like some professional assistance contact us at Peaceful Mind Psychology.