My husband is bulimic.

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Q: About 7 years ago, my husband weighed 150-ish at 5’9. He got his first job as an attorney and we relocated, along with our infant son. Within a year of moving, he started losing weight. I attributed this initial weight loss to stress and didn’t worry much as he is a very emotionally reactive person and has some issues coping (no violence, just overdramatic and bad coping skills). He is prone to ulcers, reflux, and used to throw up when he would get nervous…so it seemed sort of normal to me given his anxiety level. So, he lost down to about 135 after taking the job. Three years ago, we had another child along with a horrible birth experience. He pretty much had a nervous breakdown 5 weeks afterwards, walked out on us, started taking valium and xanax, almost destroyed our marriage. Within a month, he came to his senses. We started seeing a counselor and he saw his own therapist as well, along with going to another doctor for his anxiety issues and meds. So we had diagnoses ranging from depression to ptsd to the whole problem revolving around bad sleeping patterns. Finally we figured out that he has ADD and OCD…when I say we, I mean the two of us. His doctor confirmed it and he is now on trazodone for sleep and fluvoximine for anxiety and OCD. He exhibited alot of behaviors before and most of them have disappeared or at least decreased. Oddly, he has these food issues that won’t seem to go away. He is very obsessive about sodas, steaks, polish sausages, pizza, and pigs in a blanket…things that will kill him, of course. It’s not like he just “likes” that stuff, he HAS to have it in the house…all the time. And he eats alot so he should be gaining weight. Nope. When he went to the doctor for the first time after the drug episode, he weighed 122lbs. Since then he has managed to get up to 128 at times, but that is it…usually its more like 126. I have discovered that he throws up and its a definite binge type thing. This has easily been going on for 3 years, since a few months after he left us and went on his drug binge. The thing is, he doesn’t do it to control his weight. I know it has to be related to the ADD and OCD. I told his doctor that another behavior would replace the drug behavior and that I was afraid it would be worse…sometimes I think it is. He had another appointment last week and the doctor (who is an adult ADD specialist) completely blew off the throwing up and weight loss. He has never seen my husband at a normal weight so I don’t think he understands how bad he looks or the extent of the weight loss. I honestly don’t know what to do anymore. He still has reflux sometimes and I am terrified of what he is doing to his esophogus. He’s had upper GI’s along with every other test in the world, and everything is fine as of now.

He lies about the throwing up, of course, and will only come clean when I actually catch him in the act (3x last week, plus 2 other times that I highly suspect). He said he doesn’t know why he does it, but that he feels good after he does. I think its all about control and is one more thing he does to “relieve” stress.

I don’t know if I should find a psychiatrist or if I should find another ADD specialist. I have told him this is ruining our marriage, which was otherwise uneventful up until the drug binge 3 years ago. He knows I hate being lied too. He’s a good guy, great with the kids, treats me like a queen otherwise, and I know he loves me. I know he would fix this if he could, but I don’t know what to do to help him or who to call. Can you point me in the right direction?

Thanks for your time.

A: Your husband has an eating disorder so you need to see a specialist in eating disorders. The binging and purging have become an “addiction” that helps your husband deal with stress. He already has learned that medication and therapy can help him. I’m so glad that he has had some success managing his OCD and sleep disturbance. I hope he can take some encouragement from that success and now turn his attention to his other problems. He needs to learn new ways to cope with change and with his many responsibilities. The Metro Treatment Center in your city lists eating disorders as one of their specialties. You might give them a call and see what they have to offer.
I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 10 Feb 2007

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2007). My husband is bulimic.. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 29, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2007/02/10/my-husband-is-bulimic/

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