Is Bulimia A Form of Addiction? | The Fix
facebook twitter RSS
HOT TOPICS: Alcoholism  Addiction  AA  Cocaine  Heroin

Is Bulimia A Form of Addiction?

Bulimia, alcoholism, and other drug addictions may be close cousins.

Image: 

Affinities with addiction.
Photo via shockmd

By Dirk Hanson

06/17/11

| Share

Bulimia, the binge-and-purge disorder that tends to afflict young women, resembles addiction in several important ways.There is often a family history of alcoholism and other eating disorders, for starters. And bulimia’s impact on the brain’s reward center is quite direct, judging by the high relapse rates among bulimics. In addition, PET scans have demonstrated that  ex-bulimics exhibit a marked decrease in serotonin receptor activation. Alterations in the brain’s serotonin pathways often persist after recovery from bulimia, and may represent permanent changes in brain chemistry.

Bulimics often maintain a normal weight, but can suffer serious physical consequence—heart rhythm irregularities, electrolyte imbalances, low blood pressure, and damage to the esophagus. Once the binge-purge cycle has been established, some researchers believe, drug-like changes in serotonin receptor distributions help reinforce the pattern. There is a definite “high,” which comes with the purging, and which has no analogue in anorexia.

Nicotine expert Cynthia Pomerleau of the University of Michigan thinks it’s likely that some women “use nicotine to hold the symptoms of bulimia in check; when they quit, the underlying predisposition reemerges—which helps to explain why these women may be more prone to larger weight gain than other quitting smokers.” It is not surprising to learn that Prozac and other serotonin-active antidepressants have proven helpful for many bulimics. Clinical studies showed median reductions in binging of as much as 67 per cent for Prozac, compared with 33 per cent for placebo. Vomiting was reduced by 56 per cent, compared to 5 per cent for female placebo users. (About 10 per cent of diagnosed bulimics are males.)

Bulimia, like alcoholism, smoking, and other drug addictions, has its psychosocial side, too, but twins studies show that there is very probably a genetics of bulimia to be pursued.  A combination of SSRI drugs and some form of structured cognitive therapy is the recommended approach at present.

Rehabilitation Directories

Most Popular
The Rehab Review
Cliffside Malibu
 
 
 
 
 

The “beach-house-relaxed” Cliffside Malibu claims to provide an oasis for recovering addicts and alcoholics. And that’s just what you'll get—if you’ve got the cash.

Morningside Recovery
 
 
 
 

For a “rehab near the beach” experience that isn’t quite as costly as similar SoCal competitors, head to this Newport Beach treatment facility.

AToN Center
 
 
 
 

Whether you’re interested in the 12 Steps, SMART Recovery, or holistic treatments, this luxurious, appealing and commendable 4.5 star (our system doesn't yet show the 1/2 star) San Diego rehab has a program for you. 

Reflections
 
 
 
 

This exclusive Northern California rehab is all about client choice—as well as golf outings, Buddhist field trips and keeping up with the office.

Capo By The Sea
 
 
 
 

Capo By The Sea offers an executive rehab program complete with medical detox and a focus on dual-diagnosis issues, as well as an outpatient option in an environment that exudes the kind of beach house optimism one would expect from an Orange County recovery outfit.

Journey Malibu
 
 
 
 

Want many of the luxury amenities A-listers have come to expect—including an enormous backyard with a pool and patio, an herb garden, a volleyball net and a spectacular vista of the Santa Monica mountains—with a recovery program to match?

The Ultimate Guide to Rehab
 
 
 
 
 

What you need to know when choosing an addiction treatment center.

the fix tv