Support Groups for Family Members of Bulimia Sufferers

Contributor: Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC, Special Projects Coordinator at Eating Disorder Hope/Addiction Hope

Multi-Generation Family Enjoying Walk In Beautiful CountrysideIf you have a loved one in your life who is suffering with bulimia, you have likely experienced a roller coaster of emotions and challenges. There may be much about this disorder that you do not understand. The many symptoms that you may observe in your loved one can be confusing and frustrating.

Whether you are a parent, child, sibling or distant relative of a loved one with bulimia, you have likely observed a change that has caused you to question what is occurring in this person that you care for so deeply.

How Bulimia Affects the Entire Family

Depending on your relationship with your loved one, the many aspects involved with bulimia may or may not directly impact you. Because bulimia involves ongoing and recurring episodes of binging and purging, there may be facets of bulimic behaviors that have not only hurt your loved one, but you or your family as well.

Perhaps your family finances have taken a hit because of the amount of money that is used to spend on food for binges. Even paying for adequate treatment for bulimia can be straining on a family and result in less than adequate resources for other family members.

Finding Trust in Family

family on a camping trip, the father,mother and son baking sausaAside from finances, your relationship with your loved one has likely changed dramatically as the person you care for engages with this deadly eating disorder. You may find that you can no longer confide in your loved one like you used to, or perhaps this particular family member has grown distant, isolated themselves from others, or withdrawn from relationships that were once valued and important.

This in itself can be extremely painful and taxing on a family, especially when the disease of bulimia itself is not quite understood.

Bulimia Is a Severe Mental Illness

It may be helpful to understand that bulimia is in fact a severe mental illness with strong biological components. You may feel guilt or shame about the fact that your family member has developed bulimia, perhaps taking responsibility for their suffering.

It is important to understand that bulimia arises from the combination of multiple factors, many which are completely out of your control, such as genetics and neurobiology. Blame cannot be placed on yourself or any other family member for that matter.

The sooner you can let go of self-blame, the easier it will be to move forward in learning how you can effectively support your loved on in their journey to recovery.

Everyone Needs Support

Mother and daughter planting flowers together.Because of the many aspects that are involved with bulimia and the healing process, not just for the individual but for families as well, it is crucial that everyone involved has adequate support through this journey.

Having the guidance of professionals and the support of other like-minded people can bring the encouragement you need to get through the many challenges and obstacles that often arise through the journey in recovery from bulimia.

Seeking Out Fellow Families

If you have a loved one who has been dealing with bulimia, do not be afraid to seek out other families who have been through a similar journey for help and support. You do not need to walk through this alone, and rallying the support of others around you can make a positive difference in your life.

It can be easy to burnout as you give your everything to help your loved one. Filling your cup with the love and encouragement of others in a support group setting may be what keeps you going through this arduous process.

Support Groups for Families

Many support groups exist for the purpose of families and carers who are helping a loved one through recovery, including FEAST (Families Empowered and Supporting Treatment of Eating Disorders). The National Eating Disorder Association also offers a toolkit for parents and families who are walking through this journey.

Utilizing resources such as these can be invaluable to you and your family as you unite together to support your loved one through recovery.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

What are support groups that have been helpful for your family as you walked through the journey of bulimia recovery with your loved one? What advice or encouragement might you share with other families who may be experiencing a similar situation?

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on June 19th, 2015
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