People with eating disorders are not the only ones who suffer. The struggle affects the whole family. There are things family members should try to avoid doing or saying, but there are also things that they can do to help their loved ones and themselves.
Learning that someone you love has an eating disorder is not easy. It may come as a shock. What comes after the diagnosis can be even harder.
Do not give up hope. People who have eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia can recover with treatment and patience. But it will likely be a long process that can take years and involve progress as well as setbacks.
There will be times when your patience is tested, like when your loved one returns to harmful eating patterns. But there are things you can do.
The first step to help your loved one is to educate yourself about eating disorders. Many people think that eating disorders are about food and weight, but that is not true. There are many underlying issues.
Your loved one will need to work with a therapist to deal with these issues. Cognitive behavioral therapy can help a person focus on thoughts, feelings, and behaviors around eating. Family therapy is another method to help with the recovery.
There are also talks you can attend to learn more about eating disorders, such as the possible causes, related health problems, and treatments. If your loved one is getting special care at a treatment center, the staff may offer classes for family members. Joining a support group may also be helpful.
The best thing that you can do is provide support. Here are some tips that may help:
With medical care and support from family and friends, your loved one can recover from an eating disorder.
National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders
National Eating Disorders Association
Canadian Mental Health Association
Canadian Psychiatric Association
Eating disorders. National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/eating-disorders/complete-index.shtml. Updated 2014. Accessed May 30, 2017.
Help for family and friends. National Eating Disorder Information Centre. Available at: http://nedic.ca/give-get-help/help-friends-family. Accessed May 30, 2017.
Last reviewed June 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Last Updated: 6/21/2021