My Partner Has Bulimia, And She Needs My Support: 5 Ways To Assist Your Loved One With An Eating Disorder

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Overcoming bulimia is a painful journey. It is true for both the person with bulimia and her loved one. The trip is even more painful when the one with the eating disorder won’t cooperate with you. You’ll have to understand that the shame and guilt would fill them once they accept your help.

Clients with anorexia and bulimia who have pervasive psychological undercurrents motivating their behavior with food are negatively impacted by the billion dollar marketing efforts of the weight loss industry. — Dawn Delgado LMFT, CEDS-S 

Acknowledging that they need your assistance is like admitting that they have a mental health problem and that is very difficult to swallow. However, no matter what your loved one declares, you know that your loved one needs support. Bulimia is a killer, and you don’t want your spouse to die because of the said disorder.

 

With that said, below are some tips on how you can help your partner who is suffering the said disorder.

 

Use Positive Language About Food.

When you talk about food with your partner who has bulimia, stay on the positive side. Focus the topic on its benefits and how delicious food tastes. Never talk about how it could boost weight and the possible health conditions that it can bring if you overeat. Doing so will only arouse guilt in the person which will then intensify the disorder.

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Get Professional Help.

If talking to your partner is not enough, then it is imperative to involve professional help. You can start by bringing your spouse to a small group of people with the same condition for talk therapy. Your loved one will then get insights into the disease and how to overcome it. You can also seek the service of a professional psychiatrist. This expert is trained to address the condition.

 

But first, you have to understand that this mental health issue is not deliberate on your loved one’s part. Your loved one is not intentionally causing this to happen. You have to be patient and understanding.

Relapse rates are high, and many are on board that this is because treatment approaches have not been guided by an understanding of the etiology of each specific eating disorder. — Judy Scheel Ph.D., L.C.S.W., CEDS

Learn More About The Disorder.

The best way you can help your partner is by first educating yourself about the disorder. You can do research, talk to people who experienced the said condition or consult with a professional trained to assist those with bulimia. Being equipped with knowledge of the disorder will make you strong enough to help your partner face the condition head-on.

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Shower Your Spouse With Love.

More than anything else, your partner needs you the most right now. She may not say it, but you know she needs you. Being judgmental and getting into the blame game won’t help at all. People with bulimia are dominated by shame, guilt, and insecurities. Instead of infusing more negativity to her, shower your spouse with positivity instead. Show your spouse how you love her. You can also do fun things together. It will not only keep her mind off the disorder, but it will help tighten the relationship bond as well.

Combining psychotherapy with nutritional therapies and yoga provides an integrative approach to efficacy and empowers our clients in their recovery process. — Leslie E. Korn Ph.D., MPH, LMHC, ACS, NTP

Start A Meaningful Conversation.

Most people find it hard talking about the disorder, but denying this kind of talk won’t help either. Talking to your loved one openly is a big help in solving some sensitive issues. You should do it with extra precaution, though. Do it with love, kindness, support, and gentleness.

 

Bulimia is a psychological disorder. It is more on the mind and the person’s emotions. Your presence, your encouragement and your willingness to be by your partner’s side as she goes through the process is the best weapon you have in overcoming the eating disorder.

Medical Issues Due To Anorexia, Bulimia And Binge-Eating (Watch Out For Your Loved Ones)

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Anorexia, bulimia, and binge-eating are just some of the eating disorders identified at this time. Each type has their unique symptoms, but all these mental health disorders can lead to a person’s life-threatening state and fatality. It is essential that once these illnesses are detected, help should be extended immediately. It is necessary to avoid further complications that might turn into one’s bitter end, especially if the person affected is your loved one, your spouse or partner.

The same advertisements that target “healthy” behaviors can trigger life threatening “unhealthy” behaviors in others, especially in the teenagers who struggle to fit in with their peers. — Dawn Delgado LMFT, CEDS-S

Medical Issues Arising From Anorexia

Anorexia nervosa is characterized by a person who is eating a tiny amount of food or getting into backbreaking physical work out even if there’s no food in their system. The purpose of doing such action is to prevent the body from accumulating fats. The person denies her own body from getting the nutrients she needs to keep it nourished. Doing this can lead to nutritional deficits and possible physical body breakdowns.

 

To be more specific, anorexia nervosa will restrict the body from getting the ideal calorie count it needs which then slows down the body functions. Heart rhythm irregularities and low blood pressure may take place which will then lead to heart failure. A woman’s menstruation would stop as the body will experience endocrine system changes. Aside from cardiovascular problems, the said disorder can also cause bone and kidney problems, as these organs and the systems were deprived of the ideal nutrients.

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The neurotransmitter dopamine enables us to stop eating and resist the urge to eat a second helping of dessert and conversely Dopamine triggers when to eat when we are indeed hungry. Dopamine function is altered for patients with Bulimia and Anorexia.  — Judy Scheel Ph.D., L.C.S.W., CEDS

Bulimia Also Causes Medical Issues

Unlike anorexia nervosa, people with bulimia eat more than their usual consumption. Then after that, they would vomit everything they just ate. This is called the “binge and purge cycle” which may occur several days in a week for minor cases. In others with severe bulimia, the cycle happens several times in a day. As a result, these individuals become uncharacteristically underweight, but there are cases wherein they can be overweight. But despite the weight issue, bulimia can cause life-threatening conditions for anyone.

 

Due to the vomiting, some people get tooth decay and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), among other related disorders. These add problems to the body and the original health issue which is bulimia.

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Complications That Arise From Binge-Eating Disorder

Binge-eating disorder is the condition wherein the patient consumes food more than usual, but not purge the meal afterward. People with the said disorder can become obese, and as a result, there are complications like heart disease, high blood pressure, high bad cholesterol count, type 2 diabetes and conditions related to the gallbladder.

Combining psychotherapy with nutritional therapies and yoga provides an integrative approach to efficacy and empowers our clients in their recovery process. — Leslie E. Korn Ph.D., MPH, LMHC, ACS, NTP

Medical Issues Related To Co-Existing Psychiatric Disorders Like Depression, Anxiety, And OCD

The said diseases are found to be correlated with psychiatric disorders like anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and depression. These conditions can be mild or severe. Studies also revealed that eating disorders are at times associated with substance and alcohol abuse. For people with eating disorders and at the same time substance abuse, infected pathogens can arise and risky behaviors are manifested as well.

 

Eating disorders are a huge concern, and this issue will further deepen once it is taken for granted. That is why it is best to face the problem head-on while it is still in its early stages so that it can quickly be eliminated in no time. If you suspect that your loved one has anorexia, bulimia, or binge-eating disorder, then you have to act fast. You need to do whatever it takes for your loved one to be checked in a hospital for vital signs and more. Therapy with an eating disorder specialist is also a requirement for immediate treatment.

Assisting A Loved One Through Treatment For Bulimia

 

 

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The person restricting calories, bingeing, purging, or excessively exercising may become anxious about getting caught or irritable when accusing a loved one of being unfairly suspicious or “controlling.” — Lisa Ferentz LCSW-C, DAPA

When you find out that a loved one is suffering from bulimia it can be confronting and overwhelming. When this occurs, you will likely feel a strong urge to do anything that you can to support them. Supporting someone through treatment for an eating disorder can be taxing on yourself and will certainly take some effort on your part. However, if you are able to provide this support and understanding to them it might be that extra help they need to conquer the bulimia.

Having the conversation:

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It can be very difficult to know where to start when supporting a loved one through bulimia, but having a conversation about your concerns is a good place.

  1. Research – Come to the conversation prepared, with a good understanding of what bulimia is and how it works. It is not simply just unusual eating behaviors based on body image issues and may often have a lot of emotions tied up with it. These can include strong feelings of shame, anxiety, embarrassment, guilt and even denial. Keep these in mind when approaching the conversation.

 

  1. Location – Choose a time and place where you can have a conversation in private and one where you are unlikely to be interrupted. Avoid places where there is a focus on food and try to choose somewhere that you know they will feel comfortable.

Because patients deny the severity of their condition they cannot accept the effects of malnutrition on heart, brain, organ and bone health. — Judy Scheel Ph.D., L.C.S.W., CEDS  

  1. Express your concerns – Keep in mind that they may not feel as though they have an eating problem or they might be very embarrassed by it. Try and approach it in a caring and non-judgmental manner. Be careful not to put any blame on them or criticize them as they may already be feeling embarrassed. This will only make them more defensive and unlikely to listen to you. Head on over to our other article (how to talk about bulimia) for some guidance around the type of language to use when having a conversation about bulimia.

 

  1. Encourage – Let them know that you are there to help support them in any way that you can. However, it is also important to encourage them to seek professional support (medical and psychological). You can certainly provide them support alongside their therapist, but this is not a battle that can likely be fought without therapy. Not only this but due to the severe medical concerns that can occur due to bulimia, it is important to get a doctor involved.

  

Model Good Habits:

Try and set a good example for your friend or loved one by focusing on healthy eating and balanced meals opposed to dieting or restricting food. Watch how you talk about appearance and body size, and avoid being self-critical and critical towards others.

Try and Boost Self-esteem:

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Focus on the personality strengths that make your friend or loved one the wonderful person they are. Give them encouragement around these and emphasize these to them in conversation. This obviously has to be subtle. For example, if they expressed concern about their weight, you wouldn’t simply reply “but you’re a really nice person” as they will likely take this as a way to confirm their insecurity. Rather, find ways and examples to praise them on their strengths.

Balancing serotonin levels with nutrition is central to managing the range of symptoms that occur along the eating disorders continuum. — Leslie E. Korn Ph.D., MPH, LMHC, ACS, NTP

Watch out for Triggers:

These could include talking about food, weight, eating, dieting and making judgmental comments about your or anyone else’s bodies. This doesn’t mean you have to avoid eating in front of them (actually this would make things worse). Just try not to have entire conversations centered around food.

Watch out for You:

Supporting a friend or loved one through bulimia can be a very taxing process. It is important to make sure you take the time to look after yourself as well. Keep up your own support networks and take time away for you to relax and recharge as you won’t be any help if you are also very stressed or anxious.

For further information on supporting a loved one through bulimia, please see the links below.

Resources:

https://www.helpguide.org/articles/eating-disorders/helping-someone-with-an-eating-disorder.htm

http://www.nedc.com.au/what-to-say-and-do

How to Find Help Treating an Eating Disorder

http://www.bulimiahelp.org/articles/how-do-you-help-someone-bulimia