How do you help someone with bulimia?

Catherine Liberty's picture

If you’ve recently discovered that a loved one has bulimia then you’ll undoubtedly want to do everything in your power to help them - of course helping someone with bulimia can be challenging if you don‘t know what to do.

Dealing with bulimia is never easy so the additional love, support and understanding that you can provide to your loved one could go a very long way in helping them to overcome bulimia!

(The importance of bulimia support)

But where do you start?

Trying to support a loved one who has bulimia can be very overwhelming, especially if you’ve never experienced an eating disorder first hand.

At first they may not want you to become involved so you should try to find a way of supporting them that you are both comfortable with - and that requires a lot of communication.

Not only can this be emotionally testing time but it can also be very confusing for you.

"Eating disorder talk"

We have words like “binge”, “purge” and "trigger" being thrown around everywhere - But what if you don’t really understand what all that “eating disorder talk” means?

If you’ve never struggled with disordered eating before then you may feel like you’ve been thrown into a completely new world.

The good news is that we are here to help!

In answer to the enormous demand for more bulimia support resources for loved ones of those affected by bulimia nervosa, here at Bulimia Help we came up with our very own free guide called “What to do when someone tells you they have bulimia.”

Even if you’re not a member of Bulimia Help you can download your very own copy of our guide right now by clicking on the page link.

You can also check out our article on “living with bulimia” to get a better idea of what life is really like for people who suffer from bulimia.

how to help someone with bulimia

5 ideas on how to help a friend with bulimia

1. Educate yourself

In other words learn absolutely everything you can about bulimia and what recovery will involve. We have lots of great free bulimia articles to get you on your way.

2. Take the lead in conversations

People with bulimia find it extremely difficult to talk about their struggle so if you feel strong enough to start conversations (at appropriate times) then this can help them to open up. It can be devastating when a loved one doesn’t acknowledge our struggles because we either feel that they don’t care or haven’t taken us seriously.  

3. Modify your behaviour around your loved one

This does NOT mean changing "who you are" but it does mean being more mindful about talking about certain things i.e. diets and weight-loss.

4. Ask them how you can help

Your loved one may not always know the answer to this question but over time you can talk about the different ways they would like you to support them.

5. Make sure they know their treatment options 

Did you know that most health authorities suggest that people try an evidence based self-help recovery program just like the Bulimia Recovery System (BRS®) as a first step in recovery? Bulimia suffers may also wish to see a therapist or even take bulimia medication. It’s all about finding what works best for them but sometimes all of those options can be a lot to process alone.

The 5 most important things to understand about bulimia

1. Bulimia is not a choice but recovery is.
2. Someone can not simply “stop” being bulimic.
3. Weight does not indicate the severity of an eating disorder - (this is especially true for bulimia)
4. Bulimia kills. (bulimia death)
5. Recovery is a gradual process that will be full of ups and downs but people can and do fully recover from bulimia.

If your loved one has not yet embarked on their recovery journey then you could suggest that they sign up for our free bulimia recovery ecourse.

If you are a parent and want to know the best way for parents to help a bulimic child then please read our article on advice for parents of bulimics.

It’s important that you try to be as un-judgemental as possible and remember that someone can only recover from bulimia with the right support and guidance.

1 comment

Anonymous's picture
Hi my Sis has been bulimic

Hi my Sis has been bulimic since she was 16, she is now 21 and she has a child who us 5mnths old . Why do some bulimic peole not exept the fact that they will die and/or be fat. I'm scared for my Sis and u want her to live a long life

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The information provided in this website is for information purposes only. The information on this website is NOT a substitute for proper diagnosis, treatment or the provision of advice by an appropriate health professional. Please refer to the full disclaimer and copyright. If you do think you might suffer from an eating disorder, it is important that you talk to your General Practitioner, as there are many physical complications that can arise from being at an unhealthily low weight or from losing weight very quickly, or from purging. We advise you to seek professional help with working on an eating disorder.


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