Use I Statements And Stick To Facts
Mention behaviors that you have personally witnessed, from your own point of view. “You” statements can make it sound like the other person has done something wrong. For example, instead of “You never eat,” try “I’ve noticed that you barely touch your dinner anymore, and that worries me.” Likewise, “I’ve heard you getting sick in the bathroom several times lately” is less accusatory than “You’ve been making yourself throw up.”
Understanding Your Loved Ones Eating Disorder
Eating disorders involve extreme disturbances in eating behaviorsfollowing rigid diets, bingeing on food in secret, throwing up after meals, obsessively counting calories. Its not easy to watch someone you care about damage their healthespecially when the solution appears, at least on the outside, to be simple. But eating disorders are more complicated than just unhealthy dietary habits. At their core, theyre attempts to deal with emotional issues and involve distorted, self-critical attitudes about weight, food, and body image. Its these negative thoughts and feelings that fuel the damaging behaviors.
People with eating disorders use food to deal with uncomfortable or painful emotions. Restricting food is used to feel in control. Overeating temporarily soothes sadness, anger, or loneliness. Purging is used to combat feelings of helplessness and self-loathing. Over time, people with an eating disorder lose the ability to see themselves objectively and obsessions over food and weight come to dominate everything else in their lives. Their road to recovery begins by identifying the underlying issues that drive their eating disorder and finding healthier ways to cope with emotional pain.
While you cant force a person with an eating disorder to change, you can offer your support and encourage treatment. And that can make a huge difference to your loved ones recovery.
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Ways To Support A Loved One With An Eating Disorder
If someone you love is struggling with an eating disorder, its important for them to get help as soon as possible. Encouraging medical treatment and therapy is one of the best things you can do when supporting a loved one with an eating disorder. Also, there are additional ways you can assist their journey to recovery every day as well.
Keep in mind that someone going through an eating disorder may be struggling with other issues, too. Everyone is different, and everyone handles the disorder differently. But, being able to support someone you love through the process can make a big difference in their recovery.
Parents must learn the warning signs and develop ways to communicate about them. You didnt choose the path on which your teen has an eating disorder but it is an increasingly common journey for parents.
Lets take a look at effective ways of supporting a loved one with an eating disorder.
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What Is Anorexia Nervosa
Anorexia nervosa is a condition where people avoid food, severely restrict food, or eat very small quantities of only certain foods. They also may weigh themselves repeatedly. Even when dangerously underweight, they may see themselves as overweight.
There are two subtypes of anorexia nervosa: a restrictive subtype and a binge-purge subtype.
Restrictive: People with the restrictive subtype of anorexia nervosa severely limit the amount and type of food they consume.
Binge-Purge: People with the binge-purge subtype of anorexia nervosa also greatly restrict the amount and type of food they consume. In addition, they may have binge-eating and purging episodeseating large amounts of food in a short time followed by vomiting or using laxatives or diuretics to get rid of what was consumed.
Symptoms of anorexia nervosa include:
- Extremely restricted eating and/or intensive and excessive exercise
- Extreme thinness
- A relentless pursuit of thinness and unwillingness to maintain a normal or healthy weight
- Intense fear of gaining weight
- Distorted body or self-image that is heavily influenced by perceptions of body weight and shape
- Denial of the seriousness of low body weight
Over time, anorexia nervosa can lead to numerous serious health consequences, including:
- Thinning of the bones
- Mild anemia
- Brain damage
- Multiple organ failure
Thoughts On Doing More Good Than Harm When Someone You Care About Is Ill
What should you do if you think or know that someone you care about has an eating disorder? What shouldnt you do? What can you do?
This post is primarily for you, the bystander: for you who watch someone who matters to you do themselves harm.
Before I go any further, though, if youre reading this and you know or suspect that someone else is worrying about you, and however that makes you feel, you might consider reading this too. If you read on, I hope that reading might help give you a little bit of insight into how it is for that person who is concerned.
On both sides, the failure to really understand how the other feels or what the other is doing can be a real stumbling block. This is often said of the person suffering from an eating disorder: no one who hasnt had one can really understand. But it applies the other way around too: if you havent experienced the fear, the helplessness, the anger, and, not least, precisely the incomprehension of looking on as someone dear to you apparently knowingly destroys themselves, its difficult quite to imagine what its like.
The upshot of this little philosophical digression is that everything is likely to go better if an effort at understanding how the other might be feeling is made on both sides.
So, back to the questions I started with.
Phase One: Early Uncertainties
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Eating Disorders : An Eating Disorder
as an eating disorder. Weir goes on to explain the origins behind eating disorders in individuals. This topic is important because, in the United States, many women and men suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder at some point in their life. It is important to know the influences that cause an individual to experience an eating disorder. Genetically, or environmentally, or both genetically and environmentally. Anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder are
How To Support Someone With An Eating Disorder
Eating disorders are inherently baffling for those whove never experienced them. If youre a friend, family member or spouse of an individual living with an eating disorder, chances are youre confused on how to help them. This blog will outline a few steps you can take to help your loved one through eating disorder recovery.
Educate yourself on Eating Disorders and Diet Culture
To help your loved one, it is important that you do your best to understand what eating disorders are and the signs and symptoms of the mental illness. There are several different types of eating disorders to familiarize yourself with including Anorexia, Bulimia, Binge Eating Disorder and Orthorexia. Each individuals eating disorder typically manifests itself in a nuanced way so the signs, symptoms and behaviours may vary from person to person. There are also several sub-types of eating disorders that you can read about in the Eating Disorder Sourcebook by Carolyn Costin. Beat or The National Eating Disorders Association websites are also a good starting point to learn more.
And not surprisingly, diet culture is the #1 contributing environmental factor for the onset of eating disorders. If your loved one is struggling with an eating disorder, there is a chance diet culture impacted their relationship with food and their body image in a negative way.
There is a comprehensive list of eating disorder resources for you to explore here.
Open the conversation without judgement
Offer practical help too
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Do: Educate Yourself About Eating Disorders
The more you know about what your friend or loved one is going through, the better you can support them. Dont be afraid to ask them questions also, as every person is unique. Eating disorders are serious illnesses, with the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. If you know or suspect you have a loved one suffering from an eating disorder, it is important to support them to get effective treatment.
How Will I Know When To Help Someone With An Eating Disorder
If there is someone in your life that you suspect of needing help, the first step is to determine whether they have an eating disorder. This can be difficult to notice if the individual has not shared that they are struggling with an eating disorder or related condition. As a family member or friend, you may see the signs even before the person with the condition is acknowledging it to themselves. Many individuals with eating disorders do not feel that they deserve to seek out treatment or that they are yet sick enough to need help. It is not uncommon to be met with resistance in some cases.
It is helpful to understand some of the warning signs prior to approaching your loved one. Often when approached, the individual will attempt to persuade you that they are fine or that you are over-reacting. Being armed with information about your concerns is a helpful and neutral way to approach the subject. You can let the person know that it is not their fault and that you realize it is not their choice to have an eating disorder. Eating disorders are serious conditions that are often accompanied by other mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.
The following are some common warning signs of eating disorders:
Respect The Persons Eating Habits
The best way to help someone battling an eating disorder is to respect their feelings and choices. You cannot force a person to change, but you can offer support and compassion while they explore their inner motivations. It may not be easy, but it is important: your loved one needs you on their side more than ever, so dont make them feel guilty about what they are doing or ashamed of themselves.
Can You Give Me Advice On How To Lose Weight
This question is not only triggering to the client but also may make them believe that their eating disorder was a positive tool, and one that they should continue to use. This statement can also pull them back into a downward spiral with their illness by making them feel like they now need to compete with you, or by making them fear that you may achieve better results than them.
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Take Care Of Yourself And Be Patient
If you are exhausted emotionally or physically, you will not be able to provide the emotional support your loved one needs the way you would like to. Those with eating disorders often do not know how to get their needs met and often do not know how to take good care of themselves. If you take good care of yourself, you will have more energy in your efforts to help them, and you will be teaching by example something your loved one needs to learn. Set aside time to care for your own social and emotional needs.
There are no quick or easy cures for eating disorders, so pace yourself. Be patient with yourself and with your loved one as he or she recovers. Often it will seem they are taking five steps forward, then three backward. But there is hope and recovery is attainable. Dont ever give up!
CENTER FOR CHANGE
Encourage Them To Seek Help
- National Eating Disorders Association: People in the US can use NEDA’s helpline.
- National Alliance for Eating Disorders: Use the search tool for US treatment centers or specialists.
- Mind: This mental health organization lists resources in the UK.
- Eating Disorder Hope: This organization has information on international resources.
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A Bigger Problem Than Most Realize
People with disordered eating habits comprise a much larger percentage of the general population. Some studies suggest that up to half of the population have problematic habits with how they eat. This includes various ways to restrict food intake, regular overconsumption and using food to cope with stress. Young people are especially prone to disordered eating patterns because they are faced with many pressures from parents, school, peers, and the larger culture and turn to or away from food to help them cope with the stress.
Disordered eating is also not easy to spot. It is often hidden behind all sorts of legitimate lifestyle and health choices such as vegetarianism, veganism, gluten-free, extreme sport participation, colon-cleansing, organic-only food, etc. It is often difficult to determine whether a person is simply very committed to their health and food choices or whether these choices reflect disordered eating habits.
It is often hidden behind all sorts of legitimate lifestyle and health choices such as vegetarianism, veganism, gluten-free, extreme sport participation, colon-cleansing
Tips For Talking To Someone Who Has An Eating Disorder
Focus on specific times when you felt concerned about the persons eating behavior. Explain that you think these behaviors may indicate that there is a problem.
, but respect his or her privacy. Eating disorders can be a cry for help, so the individual will likely appreciate that you care enough to say something.
Use I statements like, Im concerned about you because you refuse to eat, or, It worries me to hear you vomiting, as opposed to you statements such as, You just need to eat, or, Youre acting irresponsibly, which place blame on the person and can cause him or her to feel guilty.
Try not to criticize the persons eating habits or demand that he or she change. People with eating disorders are usually attempting to gain control because they feel they dont have it. Trying to trick or force them into eating can make things worse.
Avoid commenting on how the person looks. This person is already overly focused on his or her body, so even a compliment can reinforce the obsession with body image and weight.
Try not to give simple solutions such as, If youd just stop, everything would be fine! There is no simple solution to a serious problem like an eating disorder.
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Practical Ways You Can Help
As well as developing your own understanding, these practical ideas can help the person you’re worried about.
You could try the following:
- Include them in social activities. If they find it difficult to eat, arrange activities which dont involve food. You could watch a film, play a game or take a walk.
- Keep meal times as stress-free as possible. Don’t comment on their food choices. Let them get on with eating the food they feel able to eat.
- Find safe ways to talk about it. Some people find it helps to refer to the eating problems in the third person. Try saying things like “that’s not you, that’s the eating problem speaking”.
- Help them find good information and avoid bad sources. This could mean looking for reliable facts and trusted online support. It also means helping them avoid places online that may promote unsafe eating and exercise habits.
- It can be really helpful to read stories and accounts by people with eating problems. Especially those who are ready to think about recovery. You can find some by looking in the ‘Eating problems’ category of the Mind blogs and stories. You can find more stories and blogs at Beat.
- Encourage them to seek professional help. If they are worried about talking to their doctor, you could offer to go along with them. See our page ontreatment and support for more information. Our useful contacts for eating problems lists charities and other organisations they can contact.
Family therapy for eating problems
Tips For Helping Someone With An Eating Disorder
Individuals suffering from eating disorders need all of the support you can give them. Keep in mind that they may react defensively and become quite upset when confronted about their condition. It is important to not give up or lose hope.
Here are just a few things you can do when interacting with someone struggling with an eating disorder:
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Be Prepared To Listen
If you want to help people with an eating disorder, one of the best things you can do is be supportive. Remain silent as they tell you how theyre managing and what they are eating. It can take a lot of patience to listen to someone without judgment, but its one thing that can make the most impact.
Dont jump in with suggestions or comments, even if you think you have a great solution. Avoid situations where you end up in a power struggle over food.
Four Important Reminders When Talking To A Patient With An Eating Disorder
While there isnt a one-size-fits-all approach on how to talk to someone with an eating disorder, there are certain things that are helpful to keep in mind.
Whether you are new to working with eating disorders or if you have been in the field for longer than you can remember, it never hurts to expand your knowledge and understanding of these complicated and sneaky illnesses. Being able to recognize the many ways that an eating disorder can affect an individuals life is key to offering the best tools, techniques, and practices to make recovery possible.
Eating disorders are bound by rules. Rules on which foods are good and which are bad, rules about how you should feel after you eat, and rules that decide which bodies are beautiful and worthy of love and which bodies are not. Be mindful that the language you use doesnt inadvertently reinforce these rules, as it has the power to set someone back in their recovery. Noticing these rules is a difficult task because they are often parallel to the messages society tells us about beauty, how much we should weigh, how much we should eat, etc. Be intentional as you choose your words and consult with an eating disorder specialist when youre uncertain.
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