National Eating Disorders Association

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Trying to support boyfriend w/ bulimia signs

Hi. I'm a teenager in high school and I have recently (past two weeks) discovered my boyfriend is showing signs of bulimia. He told me after I asked him why his weekend was so bad. He said that he binged and then purged until he coughed up blood. I immediately went to hug him as we walked. We were walking towards my bus so I was really sad I couldn't stay longer to comfort him and talk to him about it.

I had suspected he had an eating disorder before this, because everytime we went out to eat, he barely ate at all and would only eat when I served him food to his mouth (which I now regret after learning about his disorder). However, I couldn't be sure because I wasn't with him at all and he gave the appearance that he ate otherwise and loved food. I feel bad now because I should've recognised the signs.

After he told me this--which was on a Monday afterschool, I decided I would treat him with the same and talk to him normally, but made up my mind to talk to him about it afterschool when we were alone. A week and a half later, I brought up the topic. He told me he had purged yesterday after binging. Hearing that made me so heartbroken. I tried to keep it in but I began to cry. As I was crying, I told him how I was afraid of him hurting himself by continuing purging, offering to help, and basically told him how there were support options. He held me and then we both held each other as I cried. We both kept apologizing to each other. I asked him why he does it and he said he feels fat and it makes him feel lighter and better, but also depresssed. I'm afraid that the "good" feeling will encourage him to continue however.

I'm afraid that I reacted very badly. He said he would never do it again, but I know that recovery should be motivated by his desire to get better, not though guilt. I feel horrible for crying and making him feel guilty or ashamed. I'm so afraid that I made the situation worse by crying. I'm also afraid that my crying stopped my point from getting across--which is him trying to get help and addressing his emotional problems.

After that day, I texted him and I said that it was not his fault for my crying and that I will always be here if he ever wants to talk and that me crying should not stop him from talking to me about it. Even though he reassured me he will, I'm afraid my crying pushed him to guard his disorder so I wouldn't worry as much.

I should mention that we're seniors and I think the pressure and transition from high school to college is very hard for him. In addition, while his family situations is not horrible, I don't think he trusts them enough to open up to them about this. So far, I'm the only one who knows.

I just want to know how should I proceed from here? What can I do to keep myself under control when I talk to him about it? I don't want it to get worse. Sorry for the length. Thank you so much.


Hi there, I just noticed your post. I am glad you found us and that you are reaching out. I am sorry for what is going on with your boyfriend. I want you to know that I hear your pain and how concerned your are and how much you care for your boyfriend. I also want to let you know that to feel guilty over his eating disorder, that you didn't say something sooner, or that you are "reacting badly" are understandable but an extra burden you are placing on yourself. I think it is good that you are talking about it but if he is coughing up blood, he needs to see a doctor. Even if he wasn't, with bulimia it is always good to get a check up at the doctors.

Yes, senior year and graduation are huge events in a high schooler's life. Do you know what his plans are, does he, do you know what your plans are?

Bulimia, and all eating disorders are medically dangerous. And mentally taxing. Getting proper support is really important. A lot of college campuses have therapists who don't charge, some even have a support group for eating disorders.

I think it is good that you are supporting your boyfriend, but make sure you are taking care of yourself as well. Unfortunately, we can not help the loved one get better. It is the individuals choices and them seeking help that will help them. As much as we may want to "cure" someone, or talk them into giving up behaviors, we can't. We can support them. We can lend a listening ear. But we can not stop them. There is almost always reasons eating disorders develop, much like drug addiction or addiction to alcohol. It is a way of coping with emotions. Of not having to think of painful memories. It takes our minds off what is going on that is painful and is put on to something else, but the problem with that is that is causes more problems and doesn't solve the underlying problems.

I will end with this. Make sure you take care of yourself. See if you can suggest your boyfriend sees a medical doctor, and know you can not fix him. He has to do that himself. It seems harsh, but it is reality. So, please post again and let us know how things are going. I am glad you posted and hope things turn around sooner than later. Take care, iwanttolive

Hey Alexa. Birdie makes a lot

Hey Alexa. Birdie makes a lot of good points. It sounds like your boyfriend could really use some professional help. Are there any adults/older folk in your or his life that you think could help? This seems like a pretty pressing issue and it sounds like your boyfriend is open to help. NEDA itself has some good resources which I'm going to leave below. But I think that its really important that you guys get him to a doctor or medical professional sooner rather than later.

1-800-931-2237 (the NEDA helpline manned by trained volunteers who can point you in the direction of local resources) (If you prefer to text chat with someone)
For crisis situations, text "NEDA" to 741741 to be connected with a trained volunteer at Crisis Text Line (just in case)

I know its not much, but best of luck.