Helping a family member overcome an eating disorder

Posted in Counselling, Life Style

Helping a family member overcome an eating disorder

Eating disorders usually appear on a psychological ground, as more and more people, men and women alike, believe that the thinner the better. They can also be caused by stress or a compulsive behavior to eat as if it represents the answer to all problems. There are three main types of eating disorders, anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder. People suffering from anorexia starve themselves because they have this irrational fear of getting fat. Although they are severely underweight, they never appreciate so and always think of themselves as fat. Bulimia manifests itself through a destructive, uncontrolled behavior of bingeing and purging, most often by vomiting, followed by ingestion of laxatives, while binge eating disorders refers to people who overeat compulsively and very rapidly, even if they feel full and uncomfortable. If you have a family member suffering from one of these disorders, it is important to catch the early signs, in order to be able to help properly.

¬†People are usually reluctant in saying anything when noticing signs of eating disorders, because they fear misinterpreting signs and being wrong or alienating the respective family member. However, first discussions are important and you shouldn’t hesitate voicing your concerns, as long as you do it in a non confrontational manner. Try to voice not only your worries, but also your love, respect, support and willingness to help. Be sure to choose the right moment, when you can talk to them privately, without being interrupted, as this may disrupt the harmony of the conversation and give them an escape route. It is also important to maintain a positive attitude and not scare them away, but rather be calm and focused. You should definitely not mention anything about the way they look, even if your intentions are good and you are trying to reassure them that they look fabulous. They won’t believe you and this is the only thing that will catch their attention. Furthermore, if you really want to help, then you need to understand that you are not there to guilt them into changing or make them feel ashamed for what they’ve done, but rather help them acknowledge the fact that you are concerned about their health and you are there to help and support them in every way.

¬†If the family member who shows signs of eating disorders is an adult, then this conversation is a lot easier than if you are dealing with a child. First of all, the impact of having to admit your own kid has such a serious health problem is greater and can throw you off balance more than if you were dealing with any other member of your family. Secondly, it’s harder to talk to children, as you may be tempted to use your parent card and put them down. You need to be very careful not to threat, get angry or scare your child. Moreover, before even discussing this issue with the kid, you need to re-examine your own attitude on body image, food and dieting, as children often copy such behaviors. Although you needn’t shout or put down your kid, you must remain firm and not fall prey to the emotional blackmail that most children resort to.