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How Do I Help a Bulimic Roommate?

"My Roommate Is Bulimic, and I Don't Know How to Help Her"

This question is from a Group Therapy post in our TrèsSugar Community. Add your advice in the comments!

This school year, I got a new batch of random roommates for my apartment. There are three other girls here, but my worry is with one in particular.

It took me two and a half weeks to figure out the pattern that she goes into the bathroom twice or three times a day, turns on the shower (to pretend she's showering), and hacks up all her food into the toilet bowl. We have very thin walls, and on my side of the apartment, you can definitely hear the vomiting. My other two roommates share their own bathroom on the opposite side of the apartment, so they wouldn't really know or hear.

I would notice weird residue in our toilet bowl — reminiscent of food. Also, a dark and nasty ring started prematurely forming around our toilet bowl — a result of all the stomach acid she's throwing up.

It bothers me because hearing her puke is — sorry to say — disgusting, it bothers me because taking three "showers" (long ones, too) is starting to mess with my own bathroom schedule and needs, and most of all it, bothers me because she's harming herself. I suffered from anorexia in high school (now a college senior far removed from those days and healthy), so I just feel her struggle.

The problem is that we are not friends. We barely talk. The random roommate assignments practically forces you to live with strangers, and since we all have our own hiding spots (our rooms), communication is not freely facilitated unless it's to say "Hi" or "Bye" or "Have a good weekend." So sitting down and having a talk with her about bulimia would be so out of place and awkward. I have no right to tell her to just stop it, but it still bothers me.

We do have resident assistants that live on our floor, but it would be too much to get a third party involved. It's not like she's putting me in danger or anything. Help! What should I do?

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Silje Silje 3 years
I think that you might be the one to help her, seeing as you have dealt with eating disorders yourself (good on you for getting out of the destructive habits!). If you meet her in the common areas and they generally are vacant, the two others aren't likely to catch on to you guys talking and you could tell her that you know and would she maybe like someone neutral to talk to? Just because you don't know her it doesn't mean that you can't make a positive impact on her life. You could also tell her in a sympathetic way how you put the pieces of the puzzle together (and as a bonus she might get the hint of cleaning up after herself).She might not want to talk to you about it just now, but maybe it's a relief that she has been "discovered" and maybe she'll talk to you about it later. Don't worry about inappropriateness in this matter, people die from this and the people who live with this have a severely reduced life quality, I think you owe it to her as a fellow human and survivor of an eating disorder to at least do SOMETHING. Preferrably something that will help her get better. I wish the two of you the best of luck.  
naoma naoma 3 years
Personally, I could not STAND to hear someone throwing up all the time.  She has no manners if she does not clean the toilet bowl!  I would tell her I know her problem, that she needs counseling and ask her to get a different roommate.  No reason for you to put up with this.  My toilets are sparkling clean and I  would never leave a mess anywhere -- but then I have no bulemic problems.  I could never live with an "untidy" person and do not -- husband is "neat as a pin."  
Bubbles12 Bubbles12 3 years
It's your home too. Bulimia is a violent, self-mutilating behavior and you deserve and are paying for a home without this stress. And she needs this problem to come out of the closet, and she needs to actively deal with it. You can only manage the first part, the safety and stress level of your home. I'd talk with your parents first and get them in your corner, especially if they're paying for your education and/or apartment but just so they know what you're dealing with. Then I'd talk with the RA and let her know you want a new apartment, and explain why. The school hopefully has a protocol because bulimia is common. After you have your new place lined up I'd sit down with her and just say "Look I've seen the signs and I know you're bulimic. I can't tell you how stressful it is to live with, I can only imagine how it is for you. Please go to the school counselors and get some help because you can kill yourself with this and I'd hate to see it, you have so much going for you." It might be the only loving outreach she ever receives. But if you don't have the will or heart, it isn't yours to do if you don't want. Good luck. You deserve a lot better environment than this.
henna-red henna-red 3 years
I want to be very clear....I don't suggest you get personaly involved with your roomate's issue.....beyond letting some other, responsible adults know that there is a serious issue that needs recognition and attention. These kinds of issues are heart breaking, and are absolute quick sands. Her health and well being is not your responsibility....but you feel badly about someone in a bad situation, one that you've had personal experience with, and so it bothers you to see it and think of not doing something. The something you can do is to address YOUR feelings, not her issues. Also, I would hate to see her issues picque yours. I know you say you're healthy....congratulations, that's a real accomplishment with an eating disorder. But you also know that once you've had this issue, it's just tooooo easy to succumb to it again, particularly if someone else with the flip side of the coin is living in your home environment. Thanks for the post, and take care sweetie
henna-red henna-red 3 years
It can lead to loss of your teeth,a ruptured esophagus, heart attack, and death, a most unpleasant death. The psychological problems are already full on.
Aquadave Aquadave 3 years
Start with little hints you know and you're worried about her then increase the hints, when she goes to the bathroom tell her she doesn't need to waste water or food. It's a hard thing to deal with but it could lead to other psycho problems
henna-red henna-red 3 years
"It would be too much to get a third party involved." Why? Why would it be too much. This is what residential assistants are for, to help address issues. No this isn't your issue or your responsibility, and you don't have to make it so. What you can do is to make the responsible adults, aware that this roomate has an issue that could kill her. Talk to a residential assistant, talk to whomever is responsible for running the apartments, ask a teacher what to do.....get some direction from the nurse or healthcare professional available on campus. It's a tough position to be in, she's not a friend, and she has a serious issue. If she's over 18 she's a legal adult. I don't know if anyone at the school can step in, but it's a good thing, I think, to ask at school, what the possibilities are. College campus's have psychiatric/counseling facilities/resources....a good place to ask for direction. I think it's great that you understand this person is not your responsibility, but your concern for another human is helping you to overlook, and make some kind of connection with her issue, if not with her. There is an anthology of letters written by friends and family of women who suffered from bulimia called P.S. What I Didn't Say. You might want to check it out, published in '09, and you might want to share it with her. Darlin, good luck with your dilemma, and your knowing. I'll send a prayer and my best wishes along your way, to you and to your room mate. I'll be thinking of you both. blessed be
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