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What Is Bulimia and How Is It Treated?

SunCloud Health is a residential and outpatient bulimia treatment provider with locations in greater Chicago

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Are you struggling with Bulimia? We can help.

Led by one of the nation’s most prominent psychiatrists for eating disorders, Kimberly Dennis, MD, CEDS, SunCloud Health has become a top bulimia treatment center in the Chicago area.

What makes SunCloud Health unique?
Unlike all other eating disorder treatment centers, we do not believe that daily consumption of ultra-processed foods is necessary for all forms of recovery. This is just one example of how our individualized treatment model is different from other traditional eating disorder programs that prescribe one generic approach for everyone regardless of their unique disease set.

Bulimia Nervosa: Did you know? 

  • At least 30 million people of all ages and gender suffer from an eating disorder in the U.S.
  • More American women suffer from bulimia than anorexia (1.5% vs. 0.9%, respectively).
  • Nearly half of bulimia patients have a co-occurring mood disorder, while more than half have a co-occurring anxiety disorder.
  • Nearly 1 in 10 bulimia patients have a co-occurring substance use disorder (usually alcohol use). 
  • Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.
  • 13% of women over 50 engage in eating disorder behaviors.
  • Genetics, environmental factors and personality traits all combine to create risk for an eating disorder.
  • 50% to 80% of the risk for anorexia and bulimia is genetic.

What is Bulimia? The Signs and Symptoms of Bulimia

There are many people out there using the term “bulimic” to define individuals with eating disorders, so what is bulimia? Bulimia is simply defined as a disease that triggers the sufferer to consume very large amounts of food (binge) and then engage in behaviors to rid themselves of excess calories (purge). People with bulimia have a fear of gaining weight. Some people with bulimia are overweight or obese, while others may be underweight. They attempt to use purging to manage their weight or prevent additional weight gain. Bulimia nervosa is a serious mental illness that requires intensive treatment. Getting help for your bulimia gives you the best chance to overcome this eating disorder.

Signs and symptoms of bulimia center around a preoccupation with body shape and/or weight. Guilt and shame are core symptoms of bulimia. Someone who is bulimic, like a person suffering from anorexia and other eating disorders, judges him- or herself harshly for any perceived flaw. 

Behaviors associated with bulimia may include:

  • obsession with body size and shape
  • live in secrecy and shame
  • hyper-focused on food
  • normal weight, overweight or underweight


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What to Look for When a Loved One May Be Bulimic

Unlike anorexia, bulimics overeat (rather than restrict) and then attempt to rid their body of the calories they ingested. As such, this eating disorder looks very different from other forms.

Binging behaviors

  • Eating until the point of physical discomfort or pain and/or blacking out
  • Eating more food when binging than normal
  • Once a binge starts, stopping feels beyond one’s control
  • Hiding or secretly hoarding food
  • Making excuses for missing food, or money taken to pay for binge foods

Purging behaviors

After a binge ends, feelings of shame and self-loathing arise followed by the compulsion to engage in some method of purging to rid the body of the extra calories. These methods may include one or more of the following: vomiting, abusing laxatives or diuretics, periods of starving, or over exercising.

The most well-known method of purging is self-induced vomiting, which is the most prevalent form of purging. This is characterized by:

  • Leaving the room or going to the bathroom during meals or immediately after eating
  • Damaged teeth and gums
  • Wounds or scars on the hand area caused by self-induced vomiting
  • Scratchy or raspy voice when speaking
  • Misuse of ipecac syrup to induce vomiting and/or laxatives, diuretics, or enemas
  • Excessive or addictive exercising


Hear from Kim Dennis, MD, CEDS, on why SunCloud Health can be the right treatment program for you or a loved one.

Bulimia Recovery – Simple Steps to Getting Help

To recover from bulimia, you need 4 things:

  1. The motivation to recover
  2. A recovery plan—seek help from qualified professionals.
  3. Medical intervention and monitoring
  4. Support for when things get tough

Do not underestimate pain—it’s a very powerful—and often necessary—motivator. Many of our patients talk about “hitting bottom” before deciding to engage in bulimia recovery.


Dr. Kim, MD, CEDS Chief Medical Officer, CEO and Co-founder, SunCloud Health explains, recovery is not about stopping things but rather it’s about expanding your life and your health.

Bulimia Treatment: How to Seek Help

For some, bulimia treatment is a difficult process, but after a person is able to recognize they have a problem, bulimia recovery goes smoother and quicker. Fortunately, SunCloud Health’s bulimia outpatient and residential treatment is well-equipped with professionally-trained clinicians and medical professionals specifically trained to provide a treatment while maintaining the client’s dignity and respect.

Seeking help for an eating disorder can be a daunting challenge. Treatment for bulimia is appropriate for a variety of persons suffering from the disease, and not just the “classic” or “full blown” cases. With multiple locations in greater Chicago, SunCloud Health provides bulimia treatment by certified eating disorder experts in a caring setting. 


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SunCloud’s Individualized Approach To Bulimia Treatment

Dr. Kim and the clinical professionals at SunCloud Health have treated thousands of people with eating disorders. Our caring team recognizes that no two people are alike, and it is important to meet the person where they are at. As such, we design a customized care plan designed to meet each of our patient’s needs in our outpatient and residential bulimia treatment programs. At SunCloud Health, we treat our patients and their families first and foremost as human beings who courageously come to us in pain seeking help and support. We believe our patients and their families deserve compassion and expertise in the care they receive.

No one fits in to a neat little box and therefore neither should your treatment options. Though we recognize that every primary diagnosis requires specific attention, we do not have separate tracks for our patients. We are focused on getting to the root of the pain which we believe is causing the self-destructive behavior, and so we find it beneficial to eliminate the customary separate track system.  We find that our patients who so often don’t feel as though they fit in anywhere, thrive in this environment as they find common ground with people who may look different from them but who in fact are struggling with and facing very similar issues.

Addressing the medical complications that many eating disorders generally have is extremely important and is always one of the first aspects of the diseases we address during bulimia recovery.  Our medical team works seamlessly with our therapists to support people in the life long journey of recovery that encompasses physical, emotional, psycho-social and spiritual growth.


Dr. Kim Dennis, MD, CEDS, explains how SunCloud Health treats co-occurring disorders.

Our program is successful in treating eating disorders because we understand that true long lasting and sustainable recovery is about more than just restoring weight or helping someone stop purging.  It is about addressing the underlying cause(s) of what is leading to the eating disorder.  Recognizing that the self- destructive behavior is not a choice but rather a disease, and that the behavior is generally a symptom of some underlying cause, is critical.  At SunCloud we do not separate the mind from the body nor do we separate the individual from their environment.  We recognize that eating disorders can be complex illnesses, which require a holistic and integrated approach taking in to account and addressing all aspects of one’s life.  We also know that if we do not treat the underlying cause of the eating disorder that while we may help one become abstinent from one addiction, another self-destructive behavior may manifest down the road.  Our objective is to target the source of the pain with love and compassion, using the experience of our trained experts, many of whom are in recovery themselves.

We believe the whole family system is a critical component of treatment. Our aim is to help our patients feel supported in all contexts of their lives and this starts with their familial relationships. Family therapy engages all family members in a healing process rather than just focusing on the identified patient. We counsel parents and partners and provide psycho-education to strengthen families and foster a nurturing home environment.

We are also well versed in diagnosing and effectively treating other aspects of our patient’s mental health which often make it that much more difficult to recover from the eating disorder, otherwise known as co-occurring disorders.


Dr. Timothy Brewerton, MD, DLFAPA, FAED, DFAACAP, CEDS-S, delves into findings from the national comorbidity survey. Discover the significant connection between PTSD and Bulimia Nervosa, highlighting that individuals with PTSD are at a staggering 10.2 times higher risk of developing Bulimia. 


Find Treatment Near You
(866) 729-1012 Or click here to send a secure message.


Krista DeCeault, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist at SunCloud Health, shares one of the most common misconceptions about eating disorders.

See the Type of Food that is Served at our Residential Treatment Center

Learn More about our Residential Level of Care

SunCloud’s Integrated Approach to Treatment

Our treatment plans are truly integrated and can be customized to fit each person’s unique needs.  We employ specific evidence-based approaches that have been proven to help people manage their emotions and develop the tools necessary to recover from eating disorders.  Specific examples include:

  • Expressive and experiential therapy
  • Skills-based therapy such:
    • DBT – Dialectical Behavioral Therapy
    • ACT – Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
    • CBT – Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Twelve Step support groups
  • Education about the disease and its effects on you, your mind, your soul and your body
  • Group sessions to teach and practice healthy interpersonal skills and relationship management
  • Meal support and regular consultation with dietary staff, as needed
  • Regular psychiatric consultations and assistance with medication, as needed
  • Individual psychotherapy
  • Family therapy (including family participation, if appropriate)
  • Yoga and Body Image Therapy

What to Expect After Completing Bulimia Treatment with SunCloud Health

As an outpatient and residential treatment center, we continue to support you for as long as we all feel our services are useful.  With multiple levels of outpatient care, you may decide to continue to stay connected through one of our aftercare groups or in some cases, you may want to continue to see one of our therapists indefinitely.  Though we understand fully that our patients want more health and not necessarily more treatment, we also understand bulimia treatment often requires a life-long commitment to sustainable recovery.  Wherever you may be once we have helped you regain things that tend to get lost in the throes of an eating disorder—such as balance, honesty, health (physical, emotional and spiritual) and most importantly yourself—we will work with you to provide a care plan that you can take with you forever, wherever you may go.


Dr. Marcia Nickow, Psy.D., CADC, CGP shares her thoughts on hope for recovery at SunCloud Health.

Why SunCloud Health for Bulimia Treatment?

SunCloud Health is led by one of the nation’s most highly respected psychiatrists in the country who specializes in treating bulimia, anorexia, substance use disorders and related mood disorders.  Kim Dennis, MD, has successfully treated thousands of people struggling with these diseases using an approach that integrates her training and experience as a doctor along with her passion for deep and honest therapy.  Our therapists are in recovery in some form or another and this comes from the top. Dr. Kim struggled with both an eating disorder and an alcohol use disorder while studying at The University of Chicago.  Her handpicked team has personal knowledge of what it is like to lose control in the disease and we bring that personal knowledge and experience to our evidence-based work every day.


Emily Long discusses how patients benefit from an integrated treatment approach and how that contributes to a more effective treatment experience at SunCloud Health.

Treatment at SCH is really different.  I have been to several so I know… Most treatment centers are focused on normalizing eating behaviors, weight restoration (or loss) and that is pretty much it.  At SunCloud  this stuff all matters but treatment is much deeper and so much more!  I have been encouraged to look at what drive me to the disordered eating behaviors in the first place.  I have looked at early childhood trauma, I have looked at dysfunctional and unhealthy relationships in my family, I have learned skills to help me respond differently to my thoughts and feelings and most importantly I have learned that I am not alone in my journey.  Dr. Kim and her team genuinely care. This place is special. Thank you! I suggest seeking treatment at SunCloud!!!!

~ SCH patient

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