Q: I have been suffering from bulimia for four months now. I realize the health risks and I know I have a problem. I have been trying to stop for a month now with no success. Before this problem I was healthy and now I fear that all my hard work I have completed over the years to be a healthy person are going down the drain. To be honest I am not sure what started my ED, but my main focus is to overcome it. I know that I have some self esteem issues and I will continue to work on that, but do you have any advice or tricks to stop these behaviors that have seemed to become habitual and uncontrollable. I know that getting professional help is probably the best way to go, but that is not me. I have always dealt with my problems in the past and I would like to give this a shot. So if you have any suggestions or tips to help me slowly stop these bulimic behaviors I would appreciate it so much.
A: I commend you for recognizing that you have a problem, for acknowledging the health risks, and for reaching out for help. While I can give you suggestions to try and change your behavior, it’s important to recognize that overcoming eating disordered behavior is much more than controlling your actions. Recovery also requires learning new skills to manage your thoughts and emotions, and learning to get comfort and soothing in relationships, instead of in food.
Out of control behaviors often serve as “relationship substitutes”. Consider that your symptoms may be signaling that it’s time to shift from doing things on your own to learning to ask for and accept help. When you feel the urge to binge or purge call a friend or family member. Even if you’re not ready to openly share your struggle with them reaching out to a trusted loved one can delay the urge to engage in self-destructive behavior and provide you with emotional support.
It can also be very helpful to journal your emotions before and after binging and purging to become more aware of the feelings driving your behavior, and to identify which emotions are most difficult for you to tolerate. You may find the book Mindful Eating and the workbook Overcoming Bulimia helpful in gaining awareness of the emotional and psychological roots of your behavior.
I urge you to seek an assessment with a psychotherapist specializing in eating disorders, and to schedule a physical with your doctor. To find a therapist in your area click here. If you do indeed have bulimia, your chances of recovery are higher if you seek help now instead of months or years down the road.
Send me your relationship and mental health questions here!
This post originally appeared in my Psych Central Ask the Therapist column
Self & relationship expert Julie de Azevedo Hanks, LCSW is wife of 22 years and mother of 4, a licensed therapist, a popular media contributor, and director of Wasatch Family Therapy. Listen to Julie’s podcast You and Yours , on B98.7 radio as the Bee’s Family Counselor, and read her national advice columns on Psych Central! and Latter-day Woman Magazine
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