Dear Barb – Bulimia

Dear Barb;

My best friend has just been diagnosed with bulimia. We have been friends for years but I didn’t realize she had this problem. What are the signs that someone has an eating disorder and what can I do to help her? I feel bad that I didn’t see she had this problem. I would like to be more aware so I can help her get over this. Thanks so much.

Mindy in California

Hi Mindy. You have asked a question that I’m sure scores of readers will be able to relate to. Bulimia is a disorder that affects many individuals, mostly young women. It is a reflection of our society and its obsession with thinness.

Don’t feel bad that you didn’t see the signs of this disorder in your friend, as it is a condition that individuals choose to keep secret. Unlike anorexia nervosa, where the individual becomes extremely thin, those with bulimia are often able to maintain a steady weight for quite a while. However, when the results of this illness begin to erode the health of the individual, the condition becomes very difficult to keep hidden.

The most common symptoms of bulimia nervosa include binge eating, where the person eats a massive amount of food and then purges. Rather than vomiting, some bulimics abuse laxatives or diuretics on a regular basis. Still others may exercise excessively after eating large amounts of food. As you can see, these are all things that could be hidden from family and friends, at least in the early stages. However as this condition progresses, serious health issues arise and the individual is no longer able to hide the affects.

Once the person is ready to seek help there are many treatment options available. Support groups are highly effective in helping the individual to recognize and accept their condition. Also, medication may be given in the form of antidepressants or anti-anxiety drugs. A professional should be consulted who, after assessing the individual, will recommend a particular treatment option.

The reasons for this disorder are not always clear, although there seems to be some specific personality traits (such as perfectionism) that trigger this ailment in certain people.

Mindy, I hope I have been able to shed some light on this most complex disorder, and I’m sure your friendship will go a long way in helping your friend through her recovery.

Are there any readers who have overcome this condition and would like to offer some insight into how they were able to accomplish this? If so please write. Your anonymity is assured, and you may be able to help someone else get to where you are.

E-mail your questions to Some submissions may be edited for length or to protect confidentiality: your real name and location will never be printed. This column is for entertainment only. The author is not a professional counsellor and this column is not intended to take the place of professional advice.