Drug Treatment for Eating Disorders
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Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder with psychological roots, combining obsessive thoughts of food, compulsive eating and purging, and emotional problems such as depression and anxiety. Most bulimics are women and girls, and they generally feel a great deal of shame about their behavior, but are unable to stop.
Treatment of bulimia is generally comprehensive, treating chemical imbalances in the brain, physical problems resulting from this damaging behavior, and emotional problems and associated thought processes.
Because one of the main causes of bulimia appears to be a chemical imbalance in the brain (particularly serotonin levels), the most commonly used type of medication is a drug class known as SSRIs, or Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors. These are generally known by the generic term "antidepressants", but are used to treat a variety of psychological disorders including anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic attacks, and impulse-control disorders.
Similar to symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder and other impulse-control disorders, those with bulimia are not able to control their eating habits, and will consume thousands of calories at a time, even though they know it is abnormal and unhealthy. After the binge, they feel shame and regret, and will purge their bodies of the food by vomiting or using laxatives.
SSRI drugs balance serotonin levels, reducing the obsessive thoughts about food, the compulsive eating habits, and the shame and anxiety that surround this condition, allowing other forms of treatment to help the individual without constant thoughts of food and bingeing.
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