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Should I tell my parents about my bulimia? How?

Hi Shaye,

These are my questions to you:

a) When do I know that I've reached the point in my eating disorder (physically and emotionally) where I really should talk to my parents about it?

b) How would I go about telling them, anyway? I mean, how does one 'set the scene' for that kind of conversation? "Hello mother dear, guess what, I've been bulimic on and off for two years now..."

c) I'm 18 - does this mean that if I told my family doctor about being bulimic, she could not divulge this information to my parents because of 'confidentiality'?

d) If I can't bring myself to tell my parents, would it be acceptable to talk to a teacher about it, or would that be unfair on him/her? I really don't want to be a burden on anybody!

Thank you so much!


Shaye Says

Hi there :)

Hehe - yes I agree with you - it's quite hard to set the scene for the 'bulimia chat' it's almost as awkward as a young teenagers first sex talk!!

Alright I will answer your questions in order that you asked them below...

a)I think that if you feel the need to ask me that question - then deep down you know that it's time to seek help. The nasty thing about bulimia is that - if left - it spirals out of control. 2 years of on and off binge purging can so easily become a decade of bingeing and throwing up every single day. It happened to me. Please, don't give it the change to happen to you.

b) Telling a parents about bulimia is never easy. The thought of it used to make me go weak at the knees. I think it's a good idea to tell your parents if they are the understanding type. For example - if somebody had mentally or physically abusive parents... I would suggest speaking to somebody else about their bulimia...

However, if you have normal and caring parents... I think it's a good idea to speak to them about it.

I personally think it's a good idea to write them a letter... getting down everything you want to say. Then, leave it somewhere where you know they'll find it... On their pillow, on the kitchen counter... and so on.

In the letter ask if you can get together and talk about it later that day...

The reason i think a letter is good is because often during a conversation you'll feel so flustered you'll end up not saying 1/2 the stuff you want to say... You might also end up chickening out... A letter sorts out both of these problems. I guess it kind of break the ice before the conversation.

If you would like to read letters that other bulimia sufferers have written to family or friends, click here. You can also share your own letter and I'll post advice on it of things you could add.

c) I do believe that because your 18 - your family doctor would have to keep it confidential. But it's something you would have to check with him as this changes from country to country! Perhaps it's a good idea to see your doctor even if you do tell your parents about your bulimia. You could check your potassium levels and make sure that bulimia related heart attack isn't a threat for you. You could even get some potassium pills to prevent a heart attack.

d) I think it would be acceptable to tell a teacher that you trust. Be selective though - only tell a kind and caring person. My mother is a teacher - and she has had people confide in her about anorexia and bulimia... She is always very sympathetic and normally helps them get into school counseling. But I would really suggest that if your parents are the caring type - that you share this with them too. The more open you can be about it the better :)

I hope answering those questions helps you gain the courage to seek help. Bulimia is a horrible burden to carry alone... if you have somebody you can trust to share it with - it does help.

Please let me know what you decide to do. And... don't forget if you want to write out a letter - I can help you with it here. ...

Stay strong and remember - You CAN beat this!

x Shaye

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Article by Shaye Boddington
Author of
and creator of The Bulimia Recovery Program and Community

The Bulimia Recovery Program