Show You Care: Supporting a Loved One Suffering from Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia nervosa is a complex illness that, when left untreated, may have serious health consequences. According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), people with severe bulimia are often at risk for cardiac arrests because the body can turn out normal in test results. This is dangerous, which is why loved ones of those suffering from the illness should always be attentive.

As the problem is more psychological in nature, bulimia is often very difficult to treat. However, when cured through effective modes of treatment, results are long-lasting and permanent. Read on to know more about how you can help a loved one who is suffering from bulimia.

What Goes on Inside the Head of a Patient

People who are bulimic have a negative image of themselves in their mind. They might see themselves as someone who is overweight or heavy-set when looking at their own reflections in the mirror, or they may just feel that way. They also have a poor relationship with food and see binge-eating and purging as a way to punish or discipline themselves, literally and figuratively speaking. People with bulimia are also hard on themselves and are often sensitive to real and perceived criticisms.

How to Help Your Friend or Loved One Heal

Like what you’d do for anyone who’s suffering from trauma or dealing with internal struggles, it is important to offer your friend or relative empathy, first and foremost. Lend an ear to them, especially when they ask for someone to listen to them, but avoid giving unsolicited advice. Here are other things that you can also do for them:

Invite them and do activities together

According to the UK’s National Health Service, patients may be reluctant to join special occasions or everyday activities at first, but they still want to be asked. Keep inviting them to join your family or friends, and eventually, they’ll warm up.

Treat them the same way you would others who don’t have the illness. Don’t treat the patient as if they are defined by their illness, or worse, “special” because of it. The Center for Change recommends talking about or doing activities that don’t revolve around food, appearance or eating disorders.

Help them regain their confidence

Woman holding someone's hand

Tell them that their presence in your life is a gift. You can also help your friend or loved one by inspiring them to engage in fun activities that they used to love. Help them rediscover their passions, as well as see the joy in even the most mundane activity.

Another way to offer your support is to encourage your friend or family member to enroll in a treatment plan for bulimia nervosa. There are a number of organizations out there nowadays that offer outpatient and aftercare programs for those who suffer from the disease, as well as counseling for patients and their families.

While they may not voice it, people with bulimia nervosa need all the help they can get on the road to recovery. Being committed to your loved one’s treatment and being open-minded throughout their healing journey is a great way to make them feel that they’re accepted — regardless of who they are — and understand that they are not their illness.

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