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How can I help someone with bulimia nervosa?

Unless the situation is life-threatening and requires immediate medical attention or a call to 911, take time to educate yourself about the disorder first. Then try having a private, non-judgmental conversation with the person. Tell the person about the behaviors you've seen that make you worry. If the person denies the problem, be gently persistent. If denial continues, take a break. Control is often a big issue in a person with an eating disorder, and you can not successfully control his or her behavior or choices. Avoid proposing overly simplistic solutions like "Just stop overeating and you won't have to purge." Remember bulimia nervosa is a complex disorder, and it requires a team of medical and psychological clinicians to treat it. Also, forcing treatment usually does not work. The patient has to be willing to undergo treatment to achieve the best chance of success. Once the patient is in treatment, ways in which you can be supportive are in the checklists and tips.

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Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder in which a person engages in binge eating (eating a lot of food in a short time) followed by some type of behavior to prevent weight gain from the food that was eaten. This behavior can take two forms: self-induced vomiting, misuse of enemas, laxatives, diet pills (called purging) and excessive exercise, fasting, or diabetic omission of insulin (called non-purging). Some people with bulimia nervosa may also starve themselves for periods of time before binge eating again. Bulimia nervosa has important mental, emotional, and physical aspects that require consideration during treatment.

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