When someone you care about suffers from an eating disorder, your instinct is to help them in any way you can. You want to ensure they get the treatment they need to overcome their illness and return to normal life as soon as possible. Unfortunately, eating disorders are tricky things that often take control of your loved one’s life, leaving them unable to see the danger they’re putting themselves in. Helping someone with an eating disorder isn’t easy; it’s usually a long process that requires a lot of time and patience. But if you understand what an eating disorder is and why it develops, along with some useful tips, you can give your loved one the support they need without losing yourself in their illness.
Know the Signs of an Eating Disorder
Many people who suffer from an eating disorder aren’t even aware they have a problem. If your loved one is convincing themselves that they’re fine, even though you know there’s a problem, you will have a tough time helping them. The first step to helping your loved one is understanding what an eating disorder is and its signs. If you think your loved one might be struggling with an eating disorder, keep an eye out for symptoms like abnormal eating habits, extreme mood changes when it comes to food, weight loss or gain that seems unusual, and withdrawal from friends and family.
Throughout this process, it’s important to avoid making comments about their weight or appearance, even if you see it as a compliment. These remarks can be triggering and detrimental to their recovery. Try to support them without being overbearing or overwhelming. For example, have healthy food options available when they visit, but don’t get upset at how much or how little they eat. Being overly critical will just cause them to be more secretive in the future. Make sure your relationship is a safe space for them to cope with this experience.
Help Them Commit to Treatment
If you can convince your loved one to commit to treatment, that’s a great first step towards recovery. But it doesn’t mean they’ll be able to jump right in. Eating disorders are complicated illnesses that take a lot of time and effort to recover from. Many people require hospitalization to help them get on the right track, and some even require residential eating disorder treatment. If your loved one can commit to treatment, you may need to convince them that in-patient care is necessary. People with eating disorders rarely see the need for treatment unless forced to see it. That’s why it’s so important to help your loved one understand that their disorder is out of control and they need help to get it under control. If your loved one is hesitant to commit to treatment, you may need to help them understand that their eating disorder is taking control of their life and they need help. Their life may seem normal to them, but to you, it may be clear that they need help.
Help Them Adhere to Their Treatment Plan
Once your loved one commits to treatment, they’ll likely be discharged with a treatment plan and a follow-up appointment with their doctor. Unfortunately, treatment plans are very open-ended, so it’s easy for your loved one to get overwhelmed and feel like there’s no end. You need to help your loved one adhere to their treatment plan. You can do this by keeping an eye on your loved one’s progress and helping them stay focused on the goals they need to achieve. If your loved one struggles to stay on track, you can also remind them that they must continue treatment if they want to recover. If your loved one feels overwhelmed, you can encourage them to break down their goals into smaller, more manageable tasks.
Help Your Loved One Build a Support Network
Eating disorders often force you to close yourself off others and spend a lot of time alone. Sometimes, you aren’t even aware of how much you’ve withdrawn from friends and family until you’ve started to recover from your eating disorder and reintegrate yourself into your support network. If your loved one has been noticeably withdrawn or has been isolating themselves, it’s incredibly important for you be part of their support network. Eating disorders are tough, but they’re even tougher when you have no one to rely on.
An eating disorder is a difficult battle to fight, and it’s even harder when you’re going through it alone. That’s why it’s so important for those struggling to seek out help from friends and family. If you’re worried about your loved one and their wellbeing, talk to them about it and create a safe space for them to share their struggles. Your support can go a long way in helping them reach recovery and contentment.