Bulimia Online Support and Virtual Treatment

The COVID-19 crisis spurred a dramatic rise in online therapy, but even before the pandemic took hold, virtual mental health treatment was becoming increasingly popular.

Author | Danielle Mauldin
Reviewed By | Bridget Clerkin

3 sources cited

Online treatment

These programs allow patients to connect with doctors, therapists, and other members of their treatment team from the comfort of their own homes, alleviating a number of logistical complications which may otherwise impede someone’s access to care.

And when it comes to addressing bulimia nervosa (BN), there are many virtual eating disorder treatment options available.

What is Online Treatment for Bulimia Like?

Online treatment for bulimia nervosa, in many ways, takes its cues from in-person treatment.

As with in-person care, therapy sessions can be modeled on any number of treatment philosophies. And like in-person care, these sessions can be delivered in a one-on-one format or in the form of an eating disorder support group.

In any case, patients keep up regular appointments with their therapist or group, using a connected device to log on to a certain website or application in order to access these sessions. Sessions can vary in length or frequency, depending on the severity of someone’s condition.

In one-on-one sessions, in particular, therapists often ask patients to keep their device’s camera on, so they may better observe how the patient looks and how they’re acting. This can be an important part of monitoring for signs of progress or regression.

Some online treatment programs include additional resources for patients and allow them to send messages, photos, videos, or other files to their therapist through a chat option.

Online Treatment Options for Bulimia Nervosa

Patients utilizing online therapy to help them work through disordered thoughts and behaviors can practice many of the same types of therapy available in person, including:

One major option that’s generally off the table for virtual treatment is medication.

While it may be possible to have online follow-up meetings with doctors and psychiatrists to discuss medication dosage and effects, it’s rare for these physicians to prescribe medication online. Most care providers prefer to initially assess a patient in person and possibly order additional medical testing before writing a prescription. 

Online therapy may also not be appropriate for more severe cases of bulimia nervosa. If someone is struggling to manage their eating disorder symptoms or showcasing extreme or troubling behaviors, it may be more helpful for them to work in a more controlled environment, with access to in-person monitoring.

Within Health

One of the most effective online treatment options for BN is Within Health.

The program is staffed by a team of doctors, therapists, nurses, dietitians, psychiatrists, and other experts, in order to provide more well-rounded and holistic strategies for managing eating disorder symptoms.

This interdisciplinary approach to BN management also gives patients access to the kind of comprehensive care often needed to help someone on their eating disorder recovery journey.  

Within’s program begins with a patient assessment, using the information to create personalized treatment plans. And even after treatment is complete, it’s possible to participate in their alumni and aftercare program, to enjoy ongoing support and help guard against relapse.

86% of those who complete our treatment program report an improved quality of life

Our virtual program offers you:

group IOP or PHP therapy

arrow A dedicated care team

graph Remote vitals monitoring

food Meal kit delivery & support

check Regular check-ins

Call for a free consultation

Viability of Online Therapy

While once thought of primarily as recovery support, online treatment has come to be seen as a much more viable option for treating a multitude of mental health conditions. [1]

Research on the subject is even newer than the concept of online therapy itself, so studies examining the efficacy of virtual treatment for bulimia nervosa specifically are sparse. Though, one case looked at online care for binge eating disorder (BED) and found these programs to successfully help patients reduce binge eating behaviors. [2]

And a host of other studies have found that, in most cases overall, virtual therapy can and should be considered just as effective as in-person treatment. [3]

Benefits of Online Treatment

Aside from producing results, online therapy, and online support groups offer a host of other benefits, including:

  • Convenience: Online treatment allows patients to receive the help they need without having to leave home. This makes it much easier to keep regular appointments — and makes it more likely that patients will attend their therapy sessions.
  • Access: Online treatment expands access to care exponentially, helping those who may be far from in-person treatment programs, experience challenges around mobility or transportation, or have complicated schedules.
  • Confidentiality and privacy: The shame and embarrassment that frequently accompany a BN diagnosis can lead many people to shy away from seeking treatment. Online care offers a high level of confidentiality provided through its online environment.
  • Cost-effectiveness: Online treatment is often cheaper than in-person therapy, as health professionals may be able to cut back on costs associated with managing an office, hiring staff, and commuting. 

Online therapy is also often easy to use, though some patients with less technological familiarity may need help logging in or accessing online care sessions.

Eating disorder resources

Online Support Groups for Bulimia Nervosa

Support groups are generally not first-line care options for eating disorders, but the programs offer supplemental help for many people who struggle with these conditions.

Online eating disorder support groups can create a supportive virtual environment for patients who want or need additional support in their recovery journey. These forums also give people a safe space to practice recovery skills and offer the kind of peer support that can make people feel more confident in their recovery.

Still, online support is not without its drawbacks.

Limited ability to read body language or utilize nonverbal communication can deter both the forming of new relationships amongst group members and medical monitoring opportunities for practitioners. And, as with all online activity, there exists the potential for privacy breaches or cybersecurity threats.

Finding Help for Bulimia Nervosa

If you or a loved one are struggling with bulimia nervosa, it’s important to seek out help.

Online options for care, like Within Health, can be a great place to start if symptoms, thoughts, or behaviors are mild or mostly under your control.

But if you’re experiencing more severe forms of disordered eating behavior or having harmful thoughts, it’s important to find an in-person program that can help with your condition.

Your primary care physician, therapist, psychologist, or other trusted medical professional are great sources to point you in the right direction. These experts can offer advice, make official diagnoses, and may be able to recommend specific programs or the best next steps.

Eating disorder hotlines are another great option for accessing information and resources on eating disorder treatment and recovery. These services are generally offered for free and allow callers to remain anonymous.

But regardless of where you look for help, the most important thing is seeking it. Taking that first step can make all the difference in finding yourself on the road to recovery.

Within Health offers personalized remote eating disorder treatment backed by years of experience.

Within’s IOP and PHP programs offer meal kit deliveries, a numberless scale, a convenient app to attend therapy sessions and view your schedule, and so much more.

Call for a free consultation


  1. Griffiths KM. (2017). Mental health Internet support groups: just a lot of talk or a valuable intervention? World Psychiatry; 16(3):247–248.
  2. Moghimi E, Davis C, Rotondi M. (2021). The Efficacy of eHealth Interventions for the Treatment of Adults Diagnosed With Full or Subthreshold Binge Eating Disorder: Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Journal of Medical Internet Research; 23(7). 
  3. Sarkis S. (2021, Feb. 14). Online Therapy Just As Effective As In-Person Sessions. Forbes. Accessed January 2023.

Last Update | 04 - 5 - 2023

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