Medical science continues to study the chemical composition of the brain with regards to eating disorders. While many causes can contribute to the development of an eating disorder like bulimia, some doctors believe that a basic chemical imbalance makes some individuals more susceptible.
How do Antidepressants Work?
Antidepressants works by correcting an imbalance of chemicals within the brain that can affect the way messages move between brain cells. The main neurochemicals affected by antidepressants are serotonin, norepinephrine and sometimes dopamine. Some antidepressants increase the amounts of these neurochemicals, while others go straight to the source and interact with the cell receptors directly.
Over a period of time–typically two to four weeks–the brain adapts to this change in brain function and mood increases. Studies are still ongoing to determine why exactly mood is affected, as well as why some people seem to benefit more from antidepressants than others.
Will Antidepressants Cure Bulimia?
While antidepressants alone don’t cure bulimia, some individuals find that mood-enhancing medication significantly reduces certain thoughts and feelings associated with the disorder, facilitating recovery.
Studies have returned mixed results about whether antidepressants truly offer an advantage to bulimia treatment plans. In most cases, treatment consists of a combination of psychological approaches including cognitive behavioral therapy, support groups and medication. This can make it difficult to tease apart precisely which treatment helps the patient more.
Because of the uncertainty of the effectiveness of antidepressants, many doctors suggest that patients try therapy first and only prescribe antidepressants if therapy doesn’t work or if the patient demonstrates a general need for the medication.
What are the Side Effects of Antidepressants?
Currently, the only antidepressant approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration specifically for bulimia treatment is fluoxetine, known by brand names such as Prozac.