National Eating Disorders Association

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My girlfriend gathered the courage to tell me.


My girlfriend of 6 months just gathered the courage to tell me about her bulimia. She's 33 and has dealt with it since she was 15. She's been hospitalized 3 times (voluntarily) and has seen many psychiatrists. She seems to (from what I've learned) have a waxing/waning type of disease where she'll have good months (maybe only 2-3 purges) mixed with terrible times when it is daily. It seems it was really bad when she was younger. It's been bad recently. A month ago I moved to a new city for a job and we live about 2.5 hours away from each other. We see each other every weekend. Eating alone is really tough for her. She has mentioned that when we are together she doesn't purge.

First of all I want to say I'm incredibly proud of her for telling me. I can imagine who difficult that was. I should mention, I'm a physician. But a urologist, at that. I don't know very much about eating disorders. I hope that I can use my medical training at least to be supportive and empathetic (and for any perks like seeing the best psychiatrists etc.)

I usually try to be more organized when I write things, but I feel like I need some support right now. I don't want to break up with her. I want to be with her forever (it's only been 6 months, but we've been very serious and spoken about marriage). I want to help her. I want her to be able to beat this. She knows that I will be supportive. I've asked her for 100% honesty when I ask her about it and in return she will get 0% judgment. I know she WANTS to beat it, but given how long she has been suffering I don't really think she BELIEVES she can beat it.

I don't even know what I'm looking for here. I guess I just have no one else to talk to. She does not want me telling any people (and I completely respect that). The important people in her life know about it and she is not currently in a place where I'm worried about her physical safety.

Jeez, I'm not usually a rambler. Can someone please tell me if she can beat this, truthfully. What can I do to help?

Hi there!

Hey! So sorry it took awhile for us to reply to your message! First of all, yes your girlfriend is extremely brave for letting you know about her struggle! And you are an incredible partner for seeking out ways to support her in this!! That is truly an expression of how much you love her!

First of all. I truly think that your honesty is going to help you. Can you express to her that right now you don't know how to help stop the eating disorder, but you can be there to calm her and support her emotionally? Sometimes that all we need in a moment.

I know that you mentioned you have a new job, but have you ever considered couples therapy? You could have a firm foundation of support with the therapist and have guidance in how to support her. You can find a specialist by calling the NEDA's helpline at 1-800-931-2237.

When I was recovering from my behaviors of purging, I was greatly helped when a therapist suggested this strategy. She to.d me that if after a meal I felt the need to purge that I needed to set a goal of how long I thought I could wait before purging. At first it was only 5 maybe 10 minutes. But, I was challenged to make that 10 minutes 15 and so on. Soon, I wasn't purging after each meal. And after that I stopped purging completely. I know it sounds simple, but maybe you can help your girlfriend with starting this strategy? She certainly sounds willing and wanting. Also, have you tried meal support via phone? Maybe you could talk during your works lunch break or chat after she finishes her dinner. That way you automatically start her down the path to waiting as long as she can before she does a behavior. Hopefully, with that help, she can eventually stop purging.

I certainly truly recommend seeing a therapist as a couple! It is crucial not to try doing this alone!

Is there anything I can help you with?