Early research on using antidepressants for bulimia
There are several methods to help treat bulimia nervosa. For some people with BN, taking antidepressants can be a valuable component of treatment.1 And so far, the results are encouraging, with some studies reporting people with bulimia nervosa seeing reduced binging and purging behavior after taking antidepressants.2
Once again, antidepressants should never be used without the consultation of your medical care team. It is important to remember that there are multiple types of antidepressants, each of which works differently, and each has different effects on different people.
Different types of antidepressants
In general, antidepressants regulate certain hormones in the brain, which can impact mood, including a reduction in anxiety, guilt, and depression.
But there are several different ways these outcomes can be achieved, resulting in the development of several different types of antidepressants, including:6
All of these drugs have the potential to be able to help some people struggling with bulimia nervosa in their recovery process.
Treating bulimia nervosa with antidepressants
Using antidepressants for the treatment of bulimia nervosa can be beneficial.1 Most frequently, these medications can help reduce binge eating and purge cycles in people with bulimia nervosa. And while much more research on this connection is needed to establish a known cause and effect, there are a few prevailing hypotheses proposing why antidepressants may be so helpful.
Several studies have found that many people with bulimia nervosa experience a disruption in their neural pathways, resulting in a serotonin imbalance. Since this chemical impacts not only mood but many aspects of hunger, digestion, and metabolism, an imbalance could contribute to many of the symptoms behind the condition.3
For this reason, SSRIs are the most popular antidepressant for bulimia nervosa—and, in fact, the only type of antidepressant currently approved for treating BN by the Food and Drug Administration.4
But antidepressant medication may do even more to help some people struggling with bulimia nervosa.
Depression is often diagnosed in people with BN, with a comorbid rate as high as 75%.5 And many aspects of this mental health disorder may also drive the binge eating behavior, with depression playing a role in the low self-esteem, poor self-image, and feelings of guilt that often accompany BN.
Treating the depression itself may ease the mental burden on someone struggling with bulimia nervosa, alleviating the deep emotional distress that may trigger cycles of binging and purging.
Treatment of bulimia nervosa: Other methods
Still, antidepressants aren’t the only way to treat bulimia nervosa—or depression. Multiple treatment options are available for both BN and depression, as well as their co-occurrence.
Get help today
Most doctors would recommend a hybrid course of treatment for eating disorders, which may include psychotherapy and medications like antidepressants when deemed appropriate.
At Within, we tailor our treatment program to your needs, including treating any underlying mental health conditions. While looking for help, it’s important to remember that healing is possible, and it is never too late to start the process. Reach out today.