Things to say to after your daughter tells you she has bulimia

“I have bulimia!”

These are shocking words that almost no parent wants to hear. If your daughter has the courage to open up to you and talk about her struggle with bulimia, we have a few tips to guide you through the conversation.

  • Just listen Take the time to listen to what your daughter is telling you. Many conversations are a steady back and forth of spewing ideas with little listening. Listen carefully to what your daughter is saying. You will learn a lot by just listening.
  • Don’t rush to judgement or make assumptions. Try not to judge her about why she has bulimia or make assumptions about her mental or physical wellbeing.
  • Be caring Let your daughter know that you care about her and that you can be a shoulder for her to lean on.
  • Tell her that you care Your daughter is probably scared, nervous, and confused. She might even be depressed. Let her know how much you care about her. **Being caring and telling a person that you care are two completely different things. Sometimes a person needs to hear the words “I care about you”.
  • Do not give advice or criticism. Even though your daughter talking with you about bulimia is probably a very emotional and unsettling experience for you, be careful not to give advice or criticism. Take time to absorb what she has talked to you about before making a plan of what to do.

Things to do after your daughter tells you she has bulimia


  • Learn about bulimia. Knowing about bulimia will help you understand what to expect.
  • Join a support group. There are many, many, many support groups for parents of children with bulimia. Support groups are important and will help you navigate through your mixed bag of emotions and feelings. We have compiled a list of free bulimia hotlines and support groups.

Bulimia, Remission and Recovery

Dear Brenda,

Please help my wife and I, we’re having a rough time in our relationship. She has a history of bulimia. And while she confesses that she no longer suffers from this condition, the constant lack of normal eating during meal times creates an awkward feeling at the dinner table.

Everything in her daily life has to stick to a strict regimen; I understand this is a trait of bulimia sufferers. I would like to find some information that would open her eyes to what she is doing to herself and others around her.

Dear Please-Help-My-Wife

While your wife might confess that “she no longer suffers” from bulimia, the truth of the matter is that your wife has been in what most clinicians would call “remission” or “recovery.” And you should know that this is an ongoing process.

Your wife uses food so that she doesn’t have to confront feelings or experiences that make her uncomfortable.

Relapses happen. It doesn’t mean that her whole recovery is trashed, it only means she needs the support and space to figure out what is challenging now in her life. She needs you to be non-judgmental and compassionate. You can encourage her to try some of the therapies that have had success with some bulimics, such as cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) group or individual and/or anti-depressants. Please know that the recovery work is up to your wife.

Food will always be an issue for your wife and the spouse or family of a bulimic can be their greatest source of support. And I hear your need for your wife to know what her behavior is doing to the family, but something is making your wife uncomfortable. So rather then put her on the defensive by telling what her behavior is doing to the family, use “I” messages to let her know your feelings or concerns. Support her on this journey of recovery and find a therapist or a trusted friend to help support you as well.