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Questions family/partners/friends may want to ask treatment providers privately
"She fooled all of us for 8 months that she was taking treatment seriously. That's hard for a parent," said a parent who had been bulimic, describing her bulimic child's behavior during treatment.

  • How can I/we best support the patient during treatment? *
  • What is my/our role?
  • Can the patient be admitted against her/his will? If so, under what circumstances?
  • How often can I/we discuss progress with you?
  • What should be done if the patient does not want to participate in treatment?
  • How should I/we prepare for the patient's return home?
  • What books, Web sites, or other resources do you recommend?
  • How can I/we tell if a relapse is occurring? What action should be taken?
  • If my family member/partner gets outpatient treatment, how will you decide if more intensive treatment is needed?
  • How can I/we tell if the healthcare professionals are working as a team?
  • If I/we have concerns about how it's going, who should we call?
  • What limits should be placed on exercise? What distinguishes compulsive from healthy exercise?
  • Are there any special first-aid items such as Gatorade or Pedialyte that I/we should keep on hand to help with bulimia-related emergencies?
  • How can I/we encourage "safe" food choices?
  • What if my family member/partner shuts me out of talking about things?
  • Will my family member/patient be in group treatment with people of similar age/gender? What kind of food-related supervision should I/we provide?
  • If my family member/partner is fascinated by cooking, nutrition, or fitness, should those interests be encouraged?
  • Is it wise for a recovering patient to have a job related to food or exercise?
  • How should I/we involve my family member/partner in meal planning, preparation, and food shopping?
  • My family member/partner doesn't want anyone to know about the illness. I do because it would help me and also my family member/partner to share about the illness with selected carefully chosen, discrete people in our lives. They could be supportive, but I'm afraid that my family member/partner might see them as spies. What should I do?

*You likely will need to have express written permission from the patient to discuss his/her situation with a healthcare provider (professional or facility). See Confidentialty Issues.



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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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