Supporting Someone Who Has an Eating Disorder - Topic Overview
When a loved one has an
eating disorder such as
binge eating and is in treatment, it is important that you show support.
You can show personal support by:
- Showing and stating your
- Avoiding the temptation to control the
- Trusting that your loved one has developed his or her own
high values, ideals, and standards.
- Encouraging self-responsibility
for your loved one's actions, both successes and setbacks.
support during times of discouragement.
You can also help by:
- Not urging your loved one to eat or not eat, unless this is part
of the plan for treatment.
- Avoiding comparisons with other
- Listening to feelings.
- Not allowing yourself to
be controlled by your loved one's behavior.
Family therapy and counseling
Many people struggle with handling their feelings and interactions with
someone who has an eating disorder.
Counseling, such as family therapy, can help you learn ways to encourage
healthy eating behaviors in children and teens who have eating
can be a big help to everyone in your family, whether it means seeing a
counselor alone, as a couple, or as a family. Each family member may need
reassurance or counseling at different times during the course of the illness.
- Use a professional counselor to help you work
through your concerns and reduce the eating disorder's impact on you and your
- Make time for other children in your family to receive
one-on-one love and attention.
- Use a family therapist to help your
family members find new ways to support one another.
- Use a family
therapist to find new ways to support your loved one's eating disorder
recovery. For example, a person who has anorexia is likely to do better in an
organized environment that is free from chaos and emotional outbursts.
A type of family therapy called Maudsley Family Therapy (or Maudsley Method, or Maudsley Approach) has been shown to be effective in treating children and adolescents who have anorexia.
Remember the big picture
Eating disorders happen for many different reasons. Many people who have an eating disorder come from families in which
other members have eating disorders or have other conditions such as
depression. This doesn't mean that a family member caused the disorder. It
simply means that these conditions seem more likely to happen in that family.
You can avoid guilt and self-blame by using the following
- Show support for your family member who has an
eating disorder. Say things such as, "I can see how hard
this is for you. You're
doing a good job."
- Don't focus attention only on the family member
who is in treatment. Spend time with other members of your family and your
- Remind yourself that this is a long-lasting disorder. It
will take time for changes to happen.
- Forgive yourself if you think
you said something that was not appropriate, and forgive your family member if
he or she reverts to unhealthy eating behaviors.
- Do not look for
the reason for the disorder. Work toward changing things for the
- Look at your own eating behaviors, and change the ones that