Helping a Friend or Family Member Seek Treatment for an Eating Disorder
Published On: Feb 23, 2021|Categories: Support|

There’s no denying it – speaking about something you don’t understand very well is confusing, frustrating and potentially embarrassing. What if you say the wrong thing? What if you offend them? Maybe it would be better to just stay silent. 

Silence may be prudent at times, but not always. Especially when someone you love is struggling with a serious issue, it’s more important to speak up purely because you care too much to watch someone struggle alone, or the situation is too dire to silently watch it unfold. You can show someone that you see them, you love them and you’re there for them, even though you might not understand exactly what’s happening. Discussion is the key to piecing together the puzzle, and helping loved ones seek and find the help they need.

Eating disorders are scary – both for those struggling with symptoms and for those wanting to offer assistance. Here’s the truth: you might not be equipped to offer the best help, through no fault of your own. No matter the situation, a person can’t fix something if they don’t understand the cause of their problem. This is when it’s important to turn to someone who can help, someone trained to understand the inner workings of a mind battling an eating disorder. 

You don’t need to understand the struggle in order to help. Many individuals struggling with eating disorder issues aren’t even considering getting help, especially from professional resources. If you’re concerned about a family member challenged by an eating disorder, here are a few tips to help them find freedom through recovery.

Don’t ignore the issue

It’s likely you will notice signs, even subtle ones, before your friends and family members are open to discussing them. These signs could include excessive exercising, unexplained absences immediately after finishing a meal or obsessive calorie counting. If you notice suspicious activities regarding food consumption, it’s important to approach a loved one from a caring perspective. Refrain from accusatory statements that will put them on the defense. By saying, “I notice you’re going to the gym a lot” or “I am worried about you not having dinner with us,” you can open up the conversation without directing accusations. 

It’s nerve-wracking to begin a conversation like this, but it’s just as scary for them to consider treatment. It’s so scary, in fact, that they might have written it off as a possibility entirely. By opening the door to a conversation, you show that you care about them which might, in turn, plant the seeds for treatment consideration.

Show and offer support 

Those who have seen eating disorder recovery all the way through testify to the importance of help received from their family and friends. Struggling with an eating disorder, whether it be anorexia, bulimia, binge eating or avoidant restrictive food intake disorder, is isolating and lonely. Now, more than ever, these individuals need our support, even if it’s as simple as inviting them into your normal, daily routines or reminding them of how proud you are of how far they’ve journeyed. 

Be firm, but not forceful

Change doesn’t happen unless a person is open to the possibility. Even if you want treatment for your loved one, if they remain closed to the possibility, forcing them to attend sessions won’t treat the disorder, but it will build resentment towards you. This is why open and honest conversations are so valuable. If your loved one is comfortable talking with you about the disorder they face, and you come to a point where you need to tell them that you cannot offer them the help they need no matter how badly you wish you could, they might be more open to the suggestion of treatment. 

People facing inpatient recovery need to know they’re not being sent off as a hopeless case. Rather, their choice is the best for them; they need to be confirmed and supported in their decision.

Offer to make the first call, or attend the first session with them

Again, struggling with an eating disorder is a lonely battle, so showing support by offering to make the first call to sign up for treatment, or to attend the first session with them, gives the message that your loved one doesn’t need to handle this struggle alone. And if the first treatment destination isn’t a good fit, encourage them to continue looking, and help them to do so. A simple roadblock never means the whole quest should be abandoned. Your motivating presence to persevere can do more good than you realize. 

Hope on the horizon 

Just because a situation feels bleak doesn’t mean there’s no chance of remedying it. That’s why Seeds of Hope provides proven, professional help for individuals struggling with eating disorder challenges. Call (610) 644-6464 today, where you can discuss treatment options for your family member or friend, and be guaranteed renewed hope in the possibility of recovery.  

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