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Can Hypnosis Stop Bulimia?


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Bulimia is a life-threatening malaise. It is characterized as binge eating followed with laxatives, vomiting, diuretics and/or extreme exercise to purge the body.

Why do people become trapped in this cycle of self-abuse? Explanations include:

  • Individual
  • Family
  • Society
  • Each cause is closely linked with the others. Although we can't hypnotize families and society in general, we can use hypnotherapy in treating individuals which can then influence families and society.


    Society sets the stage for bulimia-prone individuals by emphasizing food -- and thinness. Rare is the time you can watch television without seeing a commercial for food, particularly unhealthy snacks. And magazines, especially those directed towards women, are equally guilty.

    Yet the magazine cover usually features a skinny woman. Television parades thin models and infomercials for weight loss.

    Society's message is that thin is "in". Yet the same media promotes junk food. And, if that were not enough to confuse vulnerable consumers, we're encouraged to eat certain "healthy" foods while avoiding other foods deemed "dangerous" (in terms of adding fat to our bodies and poison to our organs).

    A similar mixed message is that drinking alcohol is considered to be a safe adult activity. Yet brain damaging.

    Such contradictions create inner conflicts especially within the bulimia-prone.

    If you consume foods deemed "bad", you may also swallow guilt. But if refrain from indulging, you may feel deprived. Is it any wonder that some people choose to stuff themselves, and then vomit the guilt?

    When society tells us we can't be thin enough, it should not be surprising that we strive for extreme skinniness, so as to gain validation from outside.

    Conversely,if you are chubby and overweight, you may feel not only unaccepted, but unacceptable.

    These societal contradictions are strengthened in schools. Children (especially girls) are taught to be compliant, not independent. Instead of teaching children to question, to think critically, we train them to conform to society's demands -- and to regurgitate!


    A major source of eating disorders is present in families that are reluctant to express feelings. Sometimes this is because the parents repress their own inner doubts and conflicts. Some families belong to religions, groups or cultures that frown upon the open expression of emotions.

    No matter the reason for silencing feelings it's the children who internalize the emotional pain and confusion. This too often results in the children dealing with stuffed-down feelings by misusing food to punish themselves.

    Negative behaviour of a family towards a child -- ranging from neglect to overt physical, psychological or sexual abuse -- can be a root cause of an eating disorder when the child gets older. He or she perpetuate the abuse by harming themselves through the cycle of binging and purging.

    Dynamics in such families may negatively blossom in the child's mind and body.


    Sometimes a person may turn to bulimia as an ineffective way to cope with the fear and feelings of being out-of-control when confronted by a mood disorder such as depression.

    It is more likely, though, that bulimia is the person's response to the kinds of social and family dilemmas described above. Other causes, especially events that create emotional pain, can result in a person frantically seeking a sense of control through the cycle of binge and purge.

    Single traumatic events such as:

  • abortion
  • divorce
  • rape
  • death of a friend or beloved pet
  • Or ongoing experiences such as:

  • series of traumas
  • dispiriting marriage
  • alcoholic family
  • Yet another reason some people turn to bulimia for its deceptive appearance of self-control is "Pleaser Burnout."

    This occurs when a people pleaser, someone who is always giving to others and cannot say "no", gets tired of always giving but doesn't know how to deal with the resulting resentment and frustration.

    A lesser-known cause of bulimia is non-validation of a person's feelings. An angry child repeatedly told she is not allowed to feel angry or that she's being selfish -- or even that she doesn't really feel angry -- will be confused and likely even more angry. Sad to say, she would probably have to swallow her anger.

    What would such a young woman, having learned not to speak her feelings, or even to trust her emotions, do with the consequent sense of wrongness? Possibly she would binge -- and then purge the guilt and shame.

    The majority of bulimia sufferers think in "either-or" terms. This thought process squeezes out the mixed emotions most of us hold for example, towards our parents. If you don't love 100% then you must hate 100%. Even a whisper of anger or disloyalty toward a parent would probably cause a bulimic person to be overwhelmed with guilt. Either she is good, or she is bad. Either she is thin, or she is fat. Either she eats well, or she eats poorly.

    This catastrophic way of thinking can freeze self-understanding, self-acceptance and self-control. But perfectly suits the food industry as its television commercials are uncritically absorbed by the bulimic whose self-esteem is kept low, artificially bolstered by the temporary lift of tasty food.


    In a sad attempt -- doomed to fail -- to comfort herself the bulimic bounces back and forth as she tries to balance the opposing forces of hollowness and guilt.

    Shame skyrockets as either overeating or malnutrition bring about physiological effects she cannot ignore.

    The binge/purge ritual can be viewed as her pathetic attempt to be in control of something, in this case, her weight.

    But even in this instance, the reality may be cruel. So distorted is the bulimic's thinking that her body image is likely to be off kilter. When she looks in a mirror she sees herself as fat; she does not see the actual reflection of the emaciated body she desires and that other people find horrific.

    Her preoccupation with food and her unrealistic body image causes her self-esteem to remain low because the bulimic can never be thin enough in her own eyes, nor good enough in her own estimation.

    One of the functions of this preoccupation is that it serves to protect the bulimic from facing the buried unacceptable, or terrifying, emotional conflicts within her or within the family.

    Physical damage, and shame, are exacerbated by illegal and/or prescribed drugs.

    While symptoms need to be dealt with the real problem is what underlies those symptoms. Hypnosis can modify both.

    Hypnosis to get to the Cause(s)

    Hypnosis offers a fast route to the cause(s) of a person's bulimia. Because hypnosis allows direct contact with the sufferer's neural pathways, colloquially known as the subconscious. And the subconscious "knows" what is at the root of the problem.

    Occasionally this is a one-time event (terrifying sexual abuse, for example); more likely one trauma or conflict builds on those coming before. Each such event compounds the previous ones until the psychological torment becomes intolerable.

    Bulimia then is both a (ultimately futile) way to control those out-of-control feelings, and as an anguished cry for help.

    Competent hypnotherapists can choose among several techniques to help bulimia sufferers. None involve gadgets or touching the client. Basically verbal, these approaches may include relaxing music. As with all hypnotherapy the bulimic is encouraged to engage her imagination creatively.

    To the "subconscious", all events, imagined or actually experienced, are "real." This wonderful attribute of the mind means that the sufferer can recall some traumatic event that has deeply upset her and re-write that event in her imagination so it turns out the way she would prefer.

    This results in her subconscious (i.e. certain neural pathways in the brain) holding the two versions of "reality". The second gives relief to what has become popularly known as the "inner child."

    The traumatic event is not wiped out. The conscious mind still knows what happened. But the negative emotional damage is diminished. There is no longer a need to purge.

    No longer an urge towards self-punishment.

    Hypnosis to Deal with Symptoms

    Apart from the major one of purging symptoms of bulimia vary from one sufferer to another.

    In hynotherapy the bulimic imagines she is behaving differently. Thus, the people-pleasing young woman described above, who has tired of always being a giver, could use hypnosis to instead imagine herself harnessing her rage and resentment in constructive ways for her benefit.

    Freedom from the need to purge can be enhanced with post-hypnotic suggestions. These are suggestions given while the bulimic is in hypnosis but which take effect after the session.

    To eliminate bulimia requires more than a post-hypnotic suggestion. Even the most powerful post-hypnotic suggestion fades after a while unless reinforced (by the hypnotizee and/or the therapist) or a deep change in lifestyle.

    As with all Therapy the main factor in the healing of a bulimic is the attention and validation offered by the therapist.

    With positive self-hypnosis the former bulimic can continue the healing on her own. Or his own. According to Dr Blake Woodside, director of Toronto General's eating disorders program, one out of three cases of anorexia nervosa and one in four cases of bulimia, is male.

    Psychotherapy while enjoying hypnosis

    "Either-or" thinking -- characteristic of bulimics -- permits no room for the imperfections we all possess. Such restricted thinking bars a person from self-understanding and self-acceptance. It's a mind trap with only two gates. It blocks the reality that we can choose to add as many gates as we wish.

    "Either-or" thinking delights the sponsors of television commercials and magazine ads. They can more easily convince a limited-thinking viewer that their food product is "good."

    Or, on the other hand, that you should feel guilty about eating a rival product because it brings pleasure to your palate, and fat to your face. What an effective way to keep the uncritical-thinking bulimic's self-esteem at a low level.

    Cognitive therapy while you are in hypnosis can drastically alter the "either-or" thinking pattern. With this technique the therapist helps you to think more clearly, with a wider variety of options. Also to question, to be skeptical.

    Such a change in patterns of thinking permits the acceptance of mixed emotions. And for the examination of what others tell you. Ultimately, such critical thinking makes freedom from bulimia possible.

    Positive hypnosis is a way to increase your self-control, your self-liking, your self-esteem and therefore, your self-protection.

    Hypnotherapy and positive self-hypnosis offer safe, healthy ways to soothe yourself.

    Hypnotherapeutic techniques can gradually help a bulimic change her distorted body image to a more realistic view.

    Similarly with unexpressed emotion. Hypnotherapy can remove negative messages your family may have implanted about keeping feelings in. You can learn how to safely express emotion, instead of stuffing it down and purging it out.

    In addition, you could use hypnotherapy to provide yourself with a "trigger" -- a word, a gesture, or an image -- which automatically stops you from harming yourself.

    Hypnotherapy is a great way to use your inner strengths to stop your body being the vehicle that expresses your family's disturbed dynamics.

    Another benefit is that hypnotherapy can strengthen your resolve to be your own person -- to resist the impact of the diabolical and paradoxical TV and magazine advertising which advocates both food and thinness.

    Ultimately, hypnotherapy helps you attain enough independence to trust your own judgement, and to retain enough interdependence that you contribute the most to society that your unique personality can offer.

    Other articles that may interest you:

    Are You Fat?

    Control Bulima Now

    And if you do choose to enjoy one of our self-help audios click in the blue box to choose the best hypnotic self-help solutions for YOU:

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