If you have a loved one who is suffering from an eating disorder, it is okay to be worried. You may feel helpless and alone, but there are things that you can do to help you and your loved one feel better. While eating disorders are complex mental health conditions, there are things that you can do to support a family member during this time.
Educate yourself about eating disorders
An eating disorder is a condition where an individual has food behaviors that have a negative impact on their health. It affects an individual’s emotions because their behaviors are believed to be a result of psychological factors such as their upbringing.
Understanding the symptoms of an eating disorder is important because it will help you to understand what your loved one may be going through. The most common types of eating disorders include:
- Anorexia nervosa (anorexia): A person with this condition has a distorted view of body image and weight, which leads to extreme weight loss and fear of gaining weight. They may also exercise excessively to maintain their low body weight.
- Bulimia nervosa (bulimia): People with bulimia eat large amounts at frequent intervals, followed by purging by vomiting. Some people also perform self-induced vomiting or use laxatives or diuretics (medication that helps reduce water retention).
- Binge-eating disorder (BED): This is characterized by recurrent binge eating without purging. However, an individual with BED often feels like they lack control over eating during the binge episode.
There are other kinds of eating disorders. Depending on the person’s age, culture, and other factors, they may develop anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa. Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses that can have devastating effects on your physical and emotional health. They can also be life-threatening if left untreated.
People who have an eating disorder do not recognize that their eating habits are out of control and often ignore the physical problems caused by their eating habits. Some common signs and symptoms of an eating disorder may include:
- Feeling fat, even when underweight
- Negative feelings about your body
- Frequent comments about feelings of being overweight
- Intense fear of gaining weight
- Preoccupation with food, weight, calories, and dieting
- Skipping meals
Understand that recovery isn’t linear
Recovery is not a linear process. It’s not something that happens one day and you’re done. It’s a journey, and it can be frustrating when people say, “you’re doing great!” or “you’ve come so far!” because there are no absolutes in recovery. It’s a process of self-discovery and self-acceptance that takes time to learn about yourself.
If someone you love has an eating disorder and is trying but doesn’t seem to be getting anywhere, try not to get frustrated by their lack of progress. Instead, focus on what you can do for them now: being supportive during this difficult time will help them keep going!
You can also help them find a therapist who will be able to provide the support they need in a non-judgmental setting. Eating disorders are more than just an obsession with food or body image — they’re a symptom of deeper issues that need to be addressed head-on.
Encourage them to get professional help
If you’re worried about your friend’s eating disorder, it’s important to support them while they seek help. They may need professional psychological help and guidance to overcome their problem. It can take some time, but an expert will be able to explain how to handle an eating disorder and provide solutions to prevent the patient from falling back into past behavior. Your family member might make some progress this way, depending on their willingness to recover.
Once they’ve made the decision to recover, it can be difficult for them to follow through on that commitment alone. Your support can make all the difference in helping them stay on track. They should also join an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) for eating disorder patients to get adequate support from an experienced team. This is a program where your family member can comfortably make a transition from the healthcare facility to a more independent life at home.
Regardless of whether your family member is on the road to recovery, the important thing is that they’ve decided to take the first step: seeking help. Remember to be patient, supportive, and understanding. It can take time, and it doesn’t happen overnight. But when treatment is complete, and the person has been fully rehabilitated, they can go back to living a full, happy life. If you have a loved one who is struggling with an eating disorder, you must get them help right away. Don’t wait until their condition becomes life-threatening; take action before it’s too late.