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How to Help Someone with Bulimia Nervosa

Learn how to help someone with bulimia nervosa from Allegra Broft, M.D. in this Howcast video about eating disorders.


So it can perplexing to have a friend or a family member that you think might be struggling with an eating problem, like, Bulimia nervosa and to think about how to help them. I guess one of the things that you might be first wondering about is, like, is there actually something on? Does my friend or loved have an eating problem like Bulimia? And, you know, sometimes a person that might be struggling with this is not going to be perfectly forthcoming with you, that there's a problem going on.

But you might start to notice things. If you're living with the person, you might start to notice that large amounts of food are going missing from the kitchen at night and seems sort of unexplained. You might notice that your friend or loved one is spending large amounts of time in the bathroom, doesn't really make since.

Patients with Bulimia will often be quite careful about trying to hind their symptoms, but sometimes there's certain things that can't be hid. Sometimes the smell that comes from the vomiting behavior can be lingering in the bathroom. And if you start to sense this on a recurrent basis, then you're living with a person that's struggling with this type of problem. You might start to wonder if something's up.

People with Bulimia nervosa can also be doing things like using laxatives or other types of dietary supplements. And that can also be a clue that something is going on. As far as how to help the person, you know, allowing a problem like that to go on without gently maybe trying to bring something up at some point. You know, I think if you think something's going on it's better to try to communicate that and have a conversation about it in a nonjudgmental, gentle way rather than sort of letting it go on under your nose without trying to address it.

But people can be in various stages of readiness for change. And sometimes people that are struggling with that type of problem can, you know, be forthcoming about it when confronted, or when talked to about it. And sometimes people just aren't ready to do that. But at least conveying that you have a concern and that you're willing to open a nonjudgmental ear to things that might be going on with them is often as much as you can do as someone supporting a person with Bulimia nervosa.

Certainly if you're a support of a friend or family member that is struggling with Bulimia nervosa and has been forthcoming with you and expresses that they know that there's a problem going on, one of the most important things you can do is urge that person to try to get professional help from a mental health professional or a treatment center that has a lot of knowledge and experience with these eating problems. Sometimes the road to that person's recovery can be involving family members in a therapy. And being open to taking that journey with a patient can be another important part of how you can help someone with Bulimia nervosa.

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