Home > Coping > Family and Friends Coping with Eating Disorders

Family and Friends Coping with Eating Disorders

By: Beth Morrisey MLIS - Updated: 7 Aug 2013 | comments*Discuss
 
Eating Disorders anorexia bulimia

Individuals with eating disorders are often highly secretive of their behaviours and rarely will an anorexic, bulimic or binge eater come forward and not only recognise their disorder but ask for help as well. Instead, it is often family and friends who are left to intervene and cope with the fact that a loved one is putting their health at risk.

Though it can be hard, family and friends must remember that the eating disorder itself is a cry for help, and that the individual suffering from the eating disorder is highly vulnerable and in need of support. While this can be hard to remember when faced with the daily challenges of living with someone who suffers from an eating disorder, it is the love and patience of family and friends that is often the difference between recovery and the alternative.

Interventions and Eating Disorders
Confronting an individual suspected of harbouring an eating disorder takes courage. Rarely will a confrontation or intervention be greeted warmly, and in fact the situation may turn ugly before it can be resolved.

If you are worried about a family member or friend’s life, however, don’t let a few harsh words stop you. Instead, observe the individual in question and take note of possible signs and symptoms of an eating disorder.

When you feel confidence that you have enough evidence, ask to speak with the individual in private and explain the behaviours that you have observed and why you suspect an eating disorder. Do not become aggressive during this discussion, but instead use a calm and non-confrontational tone. Remind the individual that you love and care for him/her, but can not sit by while (s)he harms him/herself.

Finally, explain the options for diagnosis and treatment, and if you are prepared to ask for help without his/her consent then it is best to make this known. If (s)he is ready to seek help, help him/her to make contact with the professionals who will diagnose and ultimately treat him/her.

Supporting Individuals with Eating Disorders
Supporting an individual in recovery from an eating disorder can be a thankless job, and the recovery itself is as much physical work as it is mental work. Family and friends should be ready to discuss an individual’s treatment plan, attend family therapy sessions, remain firm regarding healthy menus and meal plans, encourage exercise only for health and fun, and guard against secret binges or purges. Family and friends should also be prepared to cope with emotional outbursts (that will likely replace disordered eating behaviours), to remind the individuals that (s)he is loved and valued, and to praise an individual’s talents and triumphs, even if there are a few slips back into disordered eating along the way.

Coping Strategies for Family and Friends
While supporting an individual in recovery from an eating disorder can be an emotional and tiring task, there are a variety of ways that family and friends can relax and recharge their batteries in order to better cope.

Scheduling at least one solid block of free time, even if it is for as little as 20 minutes per day, can have a great benefit on an individual’s outlook and patience. Spending this time napping, taking a warm bath, reading a good book, sipping a cup of coffee in a café, going for a jog, writing letters or even just enjoying the solitude are all means of refreshing both the body and the spirit for the next stretch of the long road to recovery.

Support groups of family and friends of individuals with eating disorders exist across the UK and can be a great place to socialise and share experiences. For more information, ask a medical professional for a referral or contact the National Centre for Eating Disorders.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Why not be the first to leave a comment for discussion, ask for advice or share your story...

If you'd like to ask a question one of our experts (workload permitting) or a helpful reader hopefully can help you... We also love comments and interesting stories

Title:
(never shown)
Firstname:
(never shown)
Surname:
(never shown)
Email:
(never shown)
Nickname:
(shown)
Comment:
Validate:
Enter word:
Latest Comments
  • dorahallows
    Re: Pica Disorder
    I started eating walls in my early teens and I go through phases where I can control it and don't get the urge to eat it anymore but the past two…
    16 April 2018
  • JoJO
    Re: Pica Disorder
    @Kay - you really need to see a doctor about this because it is not right and it could ruin your health. Please seek some advice.
    13 April 2018
  • Kay
    Re: Pica Disorder
    I have a problem i eat walls so much and i dont know how to controll it im only 13 and i been eating wall for 6 years. All around my house i had made…
    13 April 2018
  • TamsO
    Re: Eating by Texture
    @ Paul - can you drink smoothies and fruit juice? Vitamin tablets are an option to consider also, but they don't replace the fibre. There are…
    12 April 2018
  • Paul
    Re: Eating by Texture
    Ever since I can remember I have had real issues with the texture of fruit and veg to the point where I’m gagging and almost to the point where…
    10 April 2018
  • Bloom
    Re: Pica Disorder
    I eat wall white putti(white cement) applied on the wall since 12 ,every time my parents use to paint it and I used to ruin it by eating. They took me…
    8 April 2018
  • Imbubblezz
    Re: Eating by Texture
    I feel like I have found my long, lost family! I keep reading about AFRID, bit it speaks about underweight people - and this most definitely is…
    5 April 2018
  • Hof
    Re: Oesophagus Problems for Bulimics
    @Andprice - if you have been bulimic for over 20 years, then it is likely you will have some stomach problems as a result.…
    3 April 2018
  • Andprice
    Re: Oesophagus Problems for Bulimics
    I've been in recovery for ten years...with very mild lapses (e.g. Forced vomiting after drinking excessively although this is…
    2 April 2018
  • KerryH
    Re: Heart Problems and Eating Disorders
    Butterfly84... Unfortunately, if you do not eat then your body will continue to defy you. The stomach distention will…
    22 March 2018
Further Reading...
Our Most Popular...
Add to my Yahoo!
Add to Google
Stumble this
Add to Twitter
Add To Facebook
RSS feed
You should seek independent professional advice before acting upon any information on the EatingDisorderExpert website. Please read our Disclaimer.