Bulimia Treatment: Symptoms Reduced Through Electrical Brain Stimulation

By Anne Dominguez , Jan 30, 2017 05:39 AM EST

Researchers found a new method of bulimia treatment. A study reveals that typical symptoms of bulimia nervosa such as restricting food intake and binge eating can be reduced noninvasive electrical stimulation. It can decrease the urge to binge eat by up to 31 percent.

Bulimia is both a mental and eating condition in which a person severely restricts food intake due to weight concerns. This is followed by binge eating and forcedly purging the food in the body either by vomiting or taking laxatives. Other means to lose weight of a bulimic person include use of diuretics and stimulants as well as excessive exercise or water fasting. Over time, this behavior becomes a cycle which is difficult to break.

Bulimia affects 2 to 3 percent of women worldwide. In 2013, about 6.5 million people are affected with bulimia. It is more common in women however, most people with bulimia have normal weight. Some effects of bulimia include depression and anxiety. In extreme cases, it can lead to medical conditions like kidney and heart failure.

In a study published in PLOS One, researchers investigated the effects of a single session of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) as bulimia treatment. tDCS is a therapy in which electrical currents are delivered to stimulate specific parts of the brain. Among other therapies tDCS is considered to have lesser side effects (slight itching or tingling of the scalp). It is also relatively cheaper, safer and easily portable.

Thirty-nine patients received both the brain stimulation treatment and a placebo with 48 hours in between. Researchers assessed the self-control and self-esteem levels of the participants as well as their urge to binge eat and other weight concerns. It was revealed that electrical brain stimulation increased the self-control of the participants.

The research gives a new route to bulimia treatment. Previous treatment methods such as antidepressants and psychotherapies are not always successful in helping patients, cited Medical News Today. "Multi-session trials are needed to determine whether tDCS has potential for development as a treatment for adult bulimia," the researchers added in the study.

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