It can be very difficult to cope with a diagnosis of bulimia nervosa, particularly when there are many incoming messages from different sources such as media, society, friends, family, and health professionals. The support network of the individual can help by encouraging them to continue making small steps of improvement and developing healthy eating habits.
It is important that affected individuals have mechanisms in place that can help to reinforce positive messages and help on their personal path to recovery. The following techniques can help to improve self-care for an individual recovering from bulimia nervosa:
- Follow a healthy eating plan without a strict diet or skipping meals, which can trigger binge eating
- Try to maintain a positive body image and self-confidence
- Avoid media that emphasizes ideal body weight and appearance
- Seek out positive role models that can improve self-esteem and body image
- Take part in activities that are enjoyable and distract from unhelpful thoughts or urges about eating
- Identify situations or events that trigger symptoms and developing coping mechanisms
- Plan ways to meet unexpected stresses or emotional events that may trigger symptoms
Patients should be encouraged to allow themselves time to heal and improve thoughts and behaviors related to eating. Throughout the recovery process, having a strong support network is essential to help the individual to continue making positive steps.
Additionally, patients should be aware that binge eating urges might return at a later period in their life, particularly during or after stressful or emotional life events. If possible, they should aim to identify signs of this early and seek medical help and support when it is needed.
Eating Disorder Support Group
An eating disorder support group can be very beneficial for patients with bulimia nervosa to meet with other individuals who are experiencing the same struggles. This helps them to feel understood and connected to a group of people.
There are two main types of support groups for people with an eating disorder such as bulimia nervosa:
- Self-help: directed and led my members of the group who have personal experience with eating disorders.
- Professionally operated: facilitated by a health professional who oversees discussion and provides psychological support and services.
These support groups are designed to help people who are suffering from an eating disorder and help them on the road to recovery. There are also online-based support groups that are available to people who require support but may be separated geographically from other like-minded individuals.
Advice for Friends and Family
The friends and family of someone with bulimia nervosa have an important role to play in the management and support of the disorder.
In many cases, the people surrounding an individual with bulimia are the first to notice symptoms of the disorder and encourage the affected individual to seek medical help. However, the continued support and encouragement of loved ones is invaluable to help recovering patients to stick to the treatment plan and develop healthier eating thought processes and habits.
The friends and family can help someone with bulimia in a variety of ways, including:
- Offering understanding and support by listening to the struggles of the individual without judgment
- Avoiding negative comments that place guilt, fear or shame on the individual regarding their eating habits
- Accepting that time is needed and the individual needs to drive the road to recovery when they are ready
- Practicing healthy eating and lifestyle habits and keeping a positive body image
- Seeking help from a counselor or other health professional to deal with emotional distress, if needed