My girlfriend has bulimia and I promised not to tell anyone. How can I help her?

She's only 16, but she told me about this problem that she'd been having for a while. When she told me (around late december, january) it was fairly infrequent (the throwing up), probably two or three times a week. Now it's pretty much every day and i think she's eating less.

She's not in serious danger or anything, but I really can't watch as it gets worse. She made me promise not to tell anyone or make her see anyone about it and thinks she can get over it by herself, but since then as i say it has got worse, so i am a bit stuck. I love her and really want to do what is best for her and what will ultimately make her happy. And i dont think telling her parents or even anyone professional is the answer to this, but i just dont know. Any ideas would really be appreciated.

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  • This isn't something you can deal with by yourself, your girlfriend needs help and support and you need support so you can support her,

    If you can, persuade her to go and see a doctor, if you belong to the same surgery, maybe go and talk to the doctor yourself first, they can't discuss her with you, but will be prepared if you manage to persuade her to go.

    She needs to be in a place where she knows she is I'll and wants help, I would seriously consider telling her parents or better still, help her to tell her parents.

    Good luck and keep trying, she is very lucky to have a boyfriend like you :)

  • Thanks very much for the reply, much appreciated...

    I understand that it isn't something that i can ideally deal with just by myself (and her) however whilst she is unwilling to seek proper help I don't want to force her. I'm sure you understand this. I will continue to try and persuade her to see someone but it wont be that easy or that quick.

    Her parents meanwhile are not the most supportive of people, and whilst im sure they would try and help I know thats one thing she cant deal with.

    What i'm after for the moment is anything I can perhaps do to help her without seeing someone. It's so frustrating because to me (and everyone else) it's so obvious that she really doesnt need and cant afford to lose the weight (though i know this isnt really the point). She's so beautiful and doesn't understand that, no matter how much i tell her.

    Sorry if all of this is me being difficult, but it's a difficult situation! Thanks again

  • You need to take control of the situation and have her make an appointment with her G/p

    whom will then refer her to specialist help .As Anyone suffering from Anorexia /Bulimia Nervosa won't seek any medical help until they are on their death bed, and collapsing /fainting before their familys take them to a g.p, and often then its to late.

    The sad thing is the doctors and hospitals know that people like myself being a Master Hypnotist /Master Hypnotherapist can help them speak to their subconscious Mind to affect Help for th epatient, and often we only get called in when its to late ,

    But seeking therapist help takes to long also and often takes 10 years to achieve anything with patients, and people don't have that much time to help themselves.As more and more hospitals are now calling us in as a 1st port of call.

  • I can really understand how you must feel - watching someone you love "destroy" what you see as beauty - not just physically, but emotionally as well - is extremely difficult to say the least - and it is a very hard and lonely place to be in - so great to think you feel able to share with us.

    Perhaps, if she's not at the place to seek help - you could encourage her to write something here about how she feels - it may be that reading other's experiences and how others have benefitted from help - this might encourage her to seek the help she needs.

    It has to be her decision at the end of the day - but I know from long experience as a sufferer however hard it is to admit doing it yourself doesn't usually work - and, if she is losing weight this is a clear sign that she does need help sooner rather than later.

    Sorry not to be more help.

    Keep in touch.

  • I wouldnt want that because (and i know this sounds a bit silly) i dont want her to see this. I'm not sure how happy she'd be if she knew i was posting about her personal stuff on the internet, and i dont want to put us in jeopardy. I just want to do something to stop this getting worse and worse, if not to make it better :(

  • Hi there, you are in such a difficult position, have you been able to do much research into the illness?

    The biggest problem is the more weight she loses, the less able she is to think rationally. The tricks the ed plays on her and the control it exercises is so hard to understand for anybody who isn't a sufferer.

    My daughter has anorexia and is now receiving treatment at a clinic. But it took that first step of acknowledging the problem to start the recovery process - the key is finding what it is that will make her realise how Ill she is. She is lucky to have yoi, but you need to look after yourself also so you can continue to support her.

    I would strongly suggest you talk to your gp as they should be able to offer you some help and advice.

    Stay strong :)

  • Thanks a lot for the reply, really appreciate it. I have been recently looking into it more as I am kind of worried about her and desperate to help her in some way. At the same time though, i'm wary of overdoing it and pressuring her into anything; that;s the last thing she'll need/want. It probably didn't help that I did something that betrayed her trust a while ago, though I think we've moved past that.

    With regards to the actual loss of weight, I don't believe at the moment that it's in a critical situation in any way. She's still probably healthy, just. But it's teetering beyond that point. I just want to help her control it, because if she can't then there is a limit to hwo much anyone can help her.

    The good news is that she has accepted now, I think, that there is a porblem that needs to be dealt with. That's the first step. If we were to talk to a GP, would everything be confidential? If they were to tell her parents, for instance, i think it would make the situation even worse. Thanks again

  • Hey there,

    I wanted to reply to you as this rung painfully true to me. This sounds so similar to my situation. I have bulimia and thats huge for me to actually admit that now as I was in denial of it for so long.

    I have been having these habits for around a year and my boyfriend knew for about 8 months and then confronted me about it with his mum. I absolutely hated them for it, as I thought they were out to get me as the ED was consuming all of my thoughts. I was embarrassed and hurt. I hid in HIS room for about 3 hours until I was eventually encouraged out. I couldn't look anyone in the eye for the fear of scrutiny. Its shamful. You feel bare and naked as your security is ripped away from you.

    About 2 months of his family trying to help me, they just couldn't take it anymore especially him being away at Uni and me still doing my Alevels at home, he took me to my GP whilst I was unaware of what was going on. I was weighed and checked for signs of self harm and did depression tests. I hated him so much but loved him dearly at the same time.

    It will be so difficult for her as all of your girlfriends emotions will be up in the air. Let her react. Don't push a reaction though as that could be detrimental. She will want to hug you AND hit you...TRUST ME!

    After being driven to my first CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) session about 6 weeks later (My family are still unware) I still did not accept I had a problem. They were just habits and my coping mechanisms. It's like trying to take a favourite toy away from a baby.

    This may be the hardest bit for you to read, but my boyfriend still loved me, and I was infatuated by him, but he dumped me as he knew it was the only way that I would focus on myself. It stung. I was crushed. However, after days in bed, I called my therapist and booked an appointment. It was the first step that I made to realise I had a problem.

    My then ex-boyfriend then told my sister who is a nurse, and then she told the rest of my family as he could see me spiralling down into the darkest depths of the disorder. My family, like hers, were not the closest of most supportive, but telling them created a painful bond between us as they could not bear that one of their own was struggling.

    I do so hope you do right thing and show how ill she is making herself and help her on the long and difficult road to rcovery. Don't carry her through it, but support her. She will have down days but do NOT make everything about recovery or the disorder. Don't let it rule you too. You still need to go out with your friends and have normality. That's when it is easier when someone else knows as it eleviates pressure from you.

    Only reading this has allowed me to empathy with others that I affected through my disorder.

    I hope all goes well. fingers crossed and stay strong :)

  • Oh and also, if you say you want it to be confidential it SHOULD be kept that way, but as she is 16 she will be under CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) and if she is self harming or critical they will have to voice it with her family.

  • you are right. that didn't make for pleasant reading at all. Before i respond to any of it let me just firstly thank you so much for taking the time to tell me all of that, it must have been pretty difficult for you, and i really appreciate it. Secondly, quite a bit has changed since the above.

    Firstly, the whole thing has escalated pretty worryingly in the last few weeks, and I can see that she is getting much worse. Which is horrible. I am trying my best to be there for her, but she doesn't seem to want to talk about it, understandable i guess, and certainly doesn't want any proper help with it. We have had a fair few long 'dmc's' about it, but they are mostly me talking and her listening, which is kinda pointless. And she is giving me the impression that she wants me to forget all about it and just not talk about it at all with her. Which is also pretty horrible.

    The next thing to say is that (and this is good news) her parents found out. I think really they've known for a while, but they brought it up with her. She panicked at first, but that's all cooled down a bit and come to a bit of a standstill. She's being made by school (who also found out) to see a school counselor..not sure how much good that's done/is going to do but we'll see i guess. All of this is good in a way though; at least now enough people know that it won't become too out of reach. As selfish and stupid as it sounds, a part of me misses that i was the only one that knew, that she confided in me and relied on me, and now it feels a little bit like i'm useless. But her safety and happiness is the most important thing, and long-term i'm sure this was what needed to be done, even if it doesn't feel like it to her.

    The last thing that's bugging me quite a lot is that i know i feel a lot stronger about her than vice versa. I always make effort to see her/talk to her when she sdoesn't seem to care that much. We talked about it a bit and she said that it was hard to love someone else when you didn't lvoe yourself but she'd love me to 'stick around' which sounded a bit off to me. I know this last bit was a bit unrelated but it all accumulates if you know what i mean.

    The big thing is that i want to help her and that is ultimately more important than anything is that she gets better. She told me she didn't want to bring me down with her but i'd rather be brought down with her than not be with her at all.

    Littlefletch your story is really sad but you've done so well to be where you are now talking to me about it so openly. It sounds horribly similar to what's going on with me (i agree) other than the fact that you obviously loved him so much, not sure that's the same in this case, but that doesn't really matter we are only young! Should i stop talking to her about all of this as she wants? or do i need to keep an element of it? because at the moment it is completely dominating all of our conversations and she obviously doesn't want that. The problem for me is that, as you said, she doesn't see it as a 'problem' but more as part of who she is, and she feels she NEEDS to throw up etc. and then punishes herself for eating in other ways.

    Thanks for any help

  • I'm glad that she has finally got help and that her family know, but still her doctors need to know so she can get into the system and start her CBT.

    I can completely empathise with her about the fear and the compulsion in all aspects of her bulimia, although I am worried about what you say about you being more into her than the other way around.

    At this moment in time it is more apparent to you that you love her more but it's just in her time of crisis and you want to show her as you are so upset that she is sad. You are her rock at the moment, the thing keeping her from starting to physically harm herself (or at least I hope so.) I do hope it doesn't come, but when your time of need comes, then I hope she emulates the support you are giving her.

    You can't force her to talk about it constantly. Choose your time wisely and plan what you are going to say. Try and approach it by saying "We are worried" opposed to "You need to..." as it will make her feel bad and it sounds like you are accusing her.

    However, YOU still need normality. She has to let you have your time out with your friends. Smothering her and observing her behaviours are completely different, so maybe do 2 dinners together and 1 lunch a week and the rest of the time food isn't involved?

    When I was going through spouts of not eating between binges, my boyfriend would do activities with me as I am a very busy person, and it causes a distraction from unhelpful thoughts. Something you can do together that builds a positive relationship with food such as baking? I loved baking with him, and then we would used to fight and cover each other in the chocolate frosting. It's fun AND tasty whilst you're having fun and being distracted by food, but you re still controlled if that makes sense?

    The ironic things about eating disorders is that you still love food. You can hate and fear it, but you adore the joy brought to others with food and the colours and smells, textures and the therapuetic process of making food.

    It is a loss for you by not being the first to know everything about the situation, maybe try talking to her friends so you are all on the same level, although this could come back and scare her as you are all talking about her behind her back.

    I find that b-eat.com has THE best resources about these disorders and they can cater for you as a sufferer and a carer. They can give so much insight into the situation and how to tackle the difficult subjects. Please have a look and keep me updated. I would just love to keep helping you out with any questions or queries that you may have?

    You are so brave and patient for someone so young. Stay Strong x

  • I am sorry i didn't reply to this sooner, a lot has been going on. She is now being made by her parents to see CAMs (as opposed to people from the priory) however I am not sure how much help they will be when she doesn't really want the help. And as we are fairly young and live reasonably far from each other (17 and 16) we don't see each other that much (maybe twice a week) so that isn't really the issue. Occasionally we go out for dinner or something, but she has been eating less and less/become more obsessive about checking calories on everything she eats.

    On a side note she has also started to smoke more which really bugs me, but I guess that's the least important thing right now.

    I am a bit worried that she has become closer to my friend (who had and still has the same disorder) that i introduced her to and her best friend, i do sort of feel like i am being made redundant to an extent. She tells me less now, and she also seems to have a lot more fun and want to spend more time with her best friend, I suppose because they don't talk about this stuff, so she associates her more with 'fun'.

    I'm just worried at the moment that things certainly arent getting better, and maybe are still getting worse. And the logner it keeps on going like this, the longer it will take for her to recover. And i am also worried that when she does recover she may not want to still be with me (associate me with bad times etc) or she'll just realise she doesnt have feelings for me or whatever.

    Thank you so much for all your help, it means so so much.

  • Hi arsenal_mad95,

    first i wanted to say how lucky your girlfriend is. She may not even realise that now because thats what eating disorders do, they suck the life out of you, they manipulate your brain so you don't remember love anymore, you can't feel anything you grow slowly numb as you loose more weight and your brain becomes more starved. That is the horrid truth.

    As you slowly start to kill yourself (which is the eventual inevitability if no help is received) then you also kill all the feelings that give joy and purpose to life and find yourself locked in a bubble, where food and exercise, binging and purging control your thoughts, you are filled with fear anxiety and guilt shame and self hate.

    Living with an eating disorder is a living hell, it is not a life worth living and the thing that is worst of all is that in the end only the suffer can realise there is a problem and only they can accept the help and implement the changes and all that the loved ones can do is watch in pain and anguish as they are absorbed by the ED.

    Your girlfriend should try to get herself to the GP as soon as she can because the longer you leave it the more damaging it becomes even if she maintains a healthy weight she is damaging her throat her kidneys and stomach she is risking kidney failure int he future heart failure and osteoporosis. I know these things sound frightening and alarming but sometimes shocking facts need to be raised and realised because if she doesn't get help these thing will eventually pose problems and the longer she leaves it the less likely she is to make a full recovery.

    I recommend that you stick by her no matter what, yes its may feel that she doesn't want you there that you are not loved but that isn't her believe me that is ED the real her is there deep down keep fighting for her be there by her side and don't stop talking because thats what ED wants you to do to leave her to steal your girlfriend away from you.

    Recovery takes time, it will begin when she admits to her GP, who will refer her to have a Psychiatric assessment which will diagnose her and asses her in terms of a medical perspective i.e. health and damage to internal organs bones etc...

    Then a plan will be made and she will likely be offered either CBT or Psychotherapy,

    and she will get regular weight checks and her parents will also be supported and will have to monitor her at home and the school who you mentioned know (this is great news as they can be a big help if they are aware there is an issue) will also most likely be included in the plan.

    It will take time but they won't force her to do anything she isn't comfortable with theres no magic wand she will not give up over night and stop. She will gradually realise why she needs this coping mechanism why it is she needs to self harm and by addressing these deeper underlying issues eventually she will be able to relinquish the control and the need for the bulimia.

    You sound like an amazing person for coming here to help her and for being brave enough not to run away from her.

    In terms of my story,

    I have had an ED of sorts for three years but it escalated into full blown bulimia 8months ago.

    I have always had behavioural issues of sorts problems controlling my temper and difficulties with family relationships. It appears now i may have a combination of ADHD, mood disorder and possible high achieving autism or aspergers.

    These conditions especially if undiagnosed and in females can lead to the development of ED's.

    I am just beginning the long road of recovery and accepting i have a big problem and am very ill has been a huge challenge. I am so ashamed of my illness and i am in know way proud of the behaviours i have practised as a result of ED or of the way it has made me treat my parents and three siblings who i love.

    It has destroyed all my friendships and it has made me isolated and lonely.

    I was trainging to be a ballerina and it destroyed that too.

    However i am know focusing on the future on recovering on getting better being well and happy. I want a future but i am scared that the damage i have inflicted on myself may be too great for me to make a full recovery and that is sad to come to terms with. But i am not going to give up or let this ED take my life because i deserve a life everyone deserves a life so remember not to give up on your girlfriend no matter how distant she becomes be there call her text her go round to her house and knock on her door until she answer tell her you love her no matter what because ED makes you hate yourself feel disgusted and ugly and inadiquit so being told other wise helps even if only in a small way.

    Sorry if this message is a bit much and too detailed etc i just was touched by your post and felt i should write this also it helps me to share my story

    Good luck all the best

  • Thank you for saying all of that, that was really moving and really made me think.

    To start with, i'm pretty confident she doesn't feel lucky right now! This sentence: "kill all the feelings that give joy and purpose to life and find yourself locked in a bubble, where food and exercise, binging and purging control your thoughts, you are filled with fear anxiety and guilt shame and self hate. " rung horribly true to me after seeing what's been happening to her for the last few weeks/months. She certainly has times when she just doesn't see the point of carrying on and fighting any more, and that's what i find devastating.

    With regards to GP/other help etc, she has now got that support, not by choice but forced upon her by her parents, so she is being monitored extremely closely. Are there any little/big things that i could do to help her in any way?

    And as for your story, that is really really sad, and I am so sorry for what you have been through. You say you are lonely, but you will find new friends and new people, don't you worry. You sound like an amazing person too, even if perhaps by what you say some of your actions as a result of your illness haven't shown that. Just remember that there is always someone out there that can talk to you and help you, giving up is never the best option. Please talk to me if you ever want someone to talk to :)

    And honestly i will never give up on her, and i really mean that. I love her so much, and i know i'm quite young and whatever but i really really do know that. I don't think she feels quite the same, which bugs me, but maybe that can change. Regardless i will be with her to help and support her until this has well and truly gone. She deserves so much better than this. No one deserves to go through what you/she is going through and I will fight for her

  • Hi there,

    My girlfriend has the same problem, she has suffered for the past 9 years! The first 4 in silence.

    Her parents divorce was the trigger when she was a child, she still lives with her mum. The problem is she cant get away from the negative induced by parents still arguing! Everyone seems depressed in the house, they all know about her issues, despite this I heard her mum come in and shout "all you care about it food" before storming out... The worst thing anyone could have said... or so i thought. Then the next day her youngest brother comes in, and shouts "Bulimia is a choice, your only doing this to get attention!"

    She has been in therapy for a few years on and off, hospitals and phyc wards etc.

    She cannot work, so i cannot earn enough to help move out.

    Now down to not telling, even though her parents might seem bad they will still care. My girlfriend had turned to alcohol to cope with the thoughts, she started talking about suicide, then told her GP while i was there her plans on how to act on these thoughts. She was drinking a big bottle of vodka a night some times two, her mum knew roughly that she was drinking but not any where near how much. I was told not to say anything, until one day i came back from work to find her huddled in the corner of the sofa, drunk, crying saying she couldn't do it anymore and wanted to die.

    Que her mum walking in, asking if everything was okay?! My girlfriend replied with "yes everything is fine"

    At this point i felt as much as her trust in me would be broken, i had to make everyone in her family aware of how bad things were. She had a break down, as i told her mum what she had been drinking the past two years, her thoughts on suicide etc. Once she had calmed down and stopped screaming "i trusted you", she understood what i had done, i wasn't trying to hurt her, i was helping her find a release, hiding things makes everything worse, more pressure to not be found out.

    We all hugged her and gave kind words, she stopped drinking. She is better but still recovering.

    I guess what i am saying is don't be scared to bring things out into the open, do what feels right. It felt horrible breaking her trust, but it had to be done.

    Hope this helps, Its my first post. Dont feel alone either!! If you need someone to talk to im here :)

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