Using Hypnosis to Manage Bulimia


Up to one in ten women between 18 and 25 will at some stage suffer an eating disorder. Worse still, it will be the one in ten we least expect. Clients are mostly female, but not exclusively.

As hypnotherapists specializing in eating disorders, we often work with clients struggling with Bulimia. In many cases, they consider themselves overweight, and yet are not. Like anorexics, they have little idea of how they appear to others.  Yet, this is not an issue that has a great deal to do with food.  Food is merely the media of expression for the problem.


Here’s an example.  A client tells of how they first began their bulimic behavior in school. The symptoms subsided a few years later, only to return following a painful breakup with a boyfriend. On closer examination it turns out that around the time the client started her bulimic behavior, her parents were going through a separation and her father had left the family home.


The bulimia was related to her feelings of abandonment and insecurity, and had little to do with food.  However, as a means of expressing herself, and a tool to create a physical response, food became a viable media. As unlikely as it may seem, this client was looking for security and a means to satisfy her own feelings of abandonment. No amount of reassurance about how little she needed to loose weight would have any positive effect.


When a second situation of abandonment was experienced, she reverted to a ‘successful’ behavioral pattern, and returned to bulimia. She would probably go through spells of bulimia her entire life, at every point where she felt abandoned, if her situation went unaddressed.


In this simplistic example things appear straightforward. Unfortunately, life is rarely this simple. When the cause of the initial outbreak of bulimic behavior is uncovered in many instances, using hypnosis, the behavior can be altered, or eliminated completely. Hypnosis can also play a valuable role in intervening when a sufferer needs to increase their food intake rapidly.


An unusual and effective method to achieve this is to place a sufferer in hypnosis, stimulate them to eat some high protein foods, such as a boiled egg, and a protein drink, and then while they remain in hypnosis, take any memory of eating these foods away. Without the memory of eating, there is no desire to purge.


In a bulimic ‘binge purge cycle’ hypnosis can be used to interrupt and relieve the process. Ultimately, the causes will need to be addressed; however, the bingeing can be stalled or prevented using the right suggestions.  The single most important aspect of using hypnosis with bulimic clients is to reassure the sufferer that there is no shame in this debilitating condition. It’s a disease, just the way flu and diabetes are. With proper care, bulimia can be overcome.


Treatment options for hypnotherapists.


A key aspect to realize in the treatment of bulimic clients is that to disrupt their binge/purge cycle can greatly weaken their resolve to complete it. Although this can provide a valuable nutrition boost, it may not actually end the bulimia.  In most cases, bulimia needs to be dealt with at the point of origin. Then sources of anxiety need to be systematically removed. As they are isolated and removed, the client will binge less and so purging will reduce.


Regression to find the original causes is the hypnotherapists most valuable tool.  There is a body of thought out there, and therapists hear this all the time, that 75% or more of bulimic clients have been sexually abused. However, in Vancouver Hypnotherapy’s experience, this is simply not the case. There are higher incidences of sexual abuse in bulimic clients than in the population generally, but we are not talking about more than 20 to 25% – probably less.


The bulimic client is more likely to have been exposed to some trauma than the general population. Trauma is a very broad term and can range from seeing your younger sibling hit by a vehicle, to not being asked to be in the school play, depending on the individual.


The anxiety the bulimic client experiences can easily be managed using hypnosis. The results are often dramatic and swift.






If you need someone to talk to about your situation, you can do so very easily by calling us (24 hrs) on 604 484 0346, or emailing us on



• Various psychological factors have been shown to be more common in those with bulimia and thus may be a contributing factor to the onset of this disorder. A low sense of self-esteem, anxiety, and those with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) are some of the most common traits.
• The interpersonal environment of an individual plays a large role in affecting an eating disorder. An unstable relationship between various members of the family, as well as a history of abuse, can contribute to the problem.
• The presence of a family member with history of an eating disorder can also play a role in the onset of bulimia. Biological make-up of a person may also affect their chances of developing bulimia. There is some evidence that the brain chemical, serotonin, may have an impact in those who develop bulimia, as serotonin helps to regulates food intake.
• Also, the culture someone lives in greatly affects their susceptibility to this disorder. In Western society today, thinness is an obsession and it is often promoted that to be beautiful or successful one must maintain the perfect body.


All of these factors join to increase a person’s susceptibility to bulimia and oftentimes worsen the condition.



After exploring the individual circumstances and assessing the contributing factors, the client is put into hypnosis and a series of exercises undertaken. These radically reshape the client’s behavior relating to food, and their perceptions relating to their own body image.


A typical treatment plan to take care of bulimia requires 6 sessions spaced two to three days apart.