The idea of a cure for bulimia isn’t popular in treatment circles. The reason is because it’s a behavioral issue linked to psychology. We can’t go in and tweak the brain to alter someone’s innate propensity to purge. It’s not like an infection where, once the bacteria are gone, someone is cured.
Bulimia can reoccur down the line, even after someone is symptom-free for years. So, while a person may be cured in the practical sense, there’s no way to tell whether he or she will relapse.
The result is that clinicians shy away from saying “cured” at all. Instead, the terms “in recovery” or “in remission” are used. With that understood, is it possible to get long-term, even lifelong remission of symptoms? Yes, it is.
A good guideline is to use the definition of bulimia nervosa itself. The DSM IV uses a standard of how often symptoms occur with the line set at “on average, at least twice a week for 3 months.” Arguably then, someone who doesn’t meet this standard isn’t bulimic. That doesn’t mean they don’t have an eating disorder or propensity to return to the behavior, what it means is that the behavior is under control.
The good news is that most people do recover, although the Mayo Clinic cautions:
”Periods of bingeing and purging may come and go through the years, depending on your life circumstances, such as times of high stress. If you find yourself back in the binge-purge cycle, 'booster' sessions with your health care providers may help you weather the crisis before your eating disorder spirals out of control again.”
Finding Your Cure
How do bulimics achieve long-term remission? Some of the best indicators are:
• Boosting self esteem – small successes bring larger successes
• Goal-oriented treatment and habits
• Early progress gives the best chance of long-term recovery
• Treatment for depression helps many bulimics
• Monitoring and support from loved ones
• Learning techniques to deal with “stressors”
• Taking any slip-ups or relapses seriously and addressing them right away
All of these factors are dependent on finding qualified and personalized treatment. With it, about 90 percent of bulimics will get better.