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What should I do if someone I know has bulimia?

If someone you know is showing signs of bulimia, you may be able to help.

Set a time to talk. Set aside a time to talk privately with your friend. Make sure you talk in a quiet place where you won't be distracted. Tell your friend about your concerns. Be honest. Tell your friend about your worries about his or her eating or exercising habits. Tell your friend you are concerned and that you think these things may be a sign of a problem that needs professional help. Ask your friend to talk to a professional. Your friend can talk to a counselor or doctor who knows about eating issues. Offer to help your friend find a counselor or doctor and make an appointment, and offer to go with him or her to the appointment. Avoid conflicts. If your friend won't admit that he or she has a problem, don't push. Be sure to tell your friend you are always there to listen if he or she wants to talk. Don't place shame, blame, or guilt on your friend. Don't say, "You just need to eat." Instead, say things like, "I'm concerned about you because you won't eat breakfast or lunch." Or, "It makes me afraid to hear you throwing up." Don't give simple solutions. Don't say, "If you'd just stop, then things would be fine!" Let your friend know that you will always be there no matter what.

This answer is based on source information from the National Women's Health Information Center.

Charles J. Sophy, MD
Adolescent Medicine

Set a time to talk. Find a time to talk alone with your friend. Make sure you talk in a quiet place where you won’t be bothered.

Tell your friend about your concerns. Be honest. Tell your friend that you are worried about her or his not eating or exercising too much. Tell your friend that you think these things may be a sign of a problem that needs professional help.

Ask your friend to talk to a professional. Your friend can talk to a counselor or doctor who knows about eating disorders.

Avoid conflicts. If your friend won’t admit that she or he has a problem, don’t push.

Be sure to tell your friend you are always there to listen if he or she wants to talk.

Don’t place shame, blame, or guilt on your friend. Don’t say, “You just need to eat.” Instead, say things like, “I’m concerned about you because you won’t eat breakfast or lunch.” Or, “It scares me to hear you throwing up.”

Don’t give simple solutions. Don’t say, “If you’d just stop, then things would be fine!”

Let your friend know that you will always be there no matter what.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.