Common ailments

Eating disorders - Bulimia

A few days ago I came across some laxatives in my 17 year old daughter’s bedroom. My daughter doesn’t look underweight but I have suspected for some time that she may have an eating disorder. She nearly always disappears to the bathroom after mealtimes and I often notice a smell of vomit when she has been in there. She usually eats healthy but small portions, yet on some days she can eat two packets of biscuits. What should I do?

From what you say about your daughter’s behaviour, it sounds like your instincts are right about her possibly having an eating disorder. More specifically, it appears that your daughter may be suffering with bulimia – a condition where people try to control their weight by severely restricting the amount of food they eat, then binge eating and purging food from their body by making themselves vomit or using laxatives.

The first hurdle is getting your daughter to open up to you about problems she might be facing and which could be causing her to behave in this way. She then has to recognise that she has an eating disorder and, more importantly, wants to get help. It is a misconception that people with eating disorders do it because they want to lose weight; bulimia is very much about having control over something, particularly when other things in a person’s life seem out of control.

Reassure your daughter that she can tell you anything at all and you’ll be there to support her. If you can persuade your daughter to confide in you then you can help her get professional advice from the family’s GP or one of the many support groups and charities you can approach for help. You could start by visiting the Eating Disorders Association’s website  or call its helpline 0845 634 1414 for advice and support. By understanding more about the condition you will be in a better position to offer constructive support as well as emotional support to your daughter.

It is also important that you don’t worry about this alone. It might be helpful to confide in a partner or someone else you trust and who will be there to support you through this.

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