Advice for Loved Ones Suffering from Bulimia

Reprinted from Bulimia: A Guide to Recovery
by Lindsey Hall and Leigh Cohn

  • Remember that your loved one has the problem, and it is up to them to do the work.
  • Make a pact of complete honesty.
  • Be patient, sympathetic, non-judgmental, and a good listener. Let your loved one know that you care and have her (or his) best interests at heart.
  • Accept that recovery is a process and does not happen quickly. Help your loved one to be patient, as well.
  • Do not be controlling of your loved one's life; you are limited in what you can do to help. You may need to learn about letting go.
  • When your loved one's behavior affects you, express yourself without placing guilt or blame. Try not to take her (or his) actions personally. Use "I" messages, explaining your feelings and concerns. You may need to disengage to take care of yourself.
  • Have compassion. Your loved one may be overwhelmed as she (or he) gets in touch with the painful issues underlying the behavior. Your loved one will need your support at these times more than ever.
  • Always remind yourself that your loved one uses bulimia as a substitute for confronting painful feelings or experiences. Ask what, if anything, you can do to help. Encourage her (or him) to find healthier ways to deal with pain.
  • Do not try to guess what she (or he) wants. Encourage your loved one to express needs. If you have questions, ask.
  • Encourage her (or him) to enter professional eating disorder therapy, keeping in mind that no single approach to recovery works for everyone. Be available for joint counseling. Be flexible and open in supporting her (or him) to do whatever approach is chosen. For example, you may know someone who goes to a particular therapist, but your loved one might relate better to another.