Eating disorders are not just a mental health concern; they also have implications for physical health. Eating disorders are characterized by an obsession with food and weight-loss behaviors, including starving oneself or exercising excessively. It’s important to help loved ones who may be struggling with eating disorders by focusing on their physical and mental health.
In general, it’s a great idea to explain how much you care and love your loved one because this may help them feel comfortable reaching out for additional support. It’s also important to take care of yourself if you’re going through a difficult time with someone close to you. If your loved one doesn’t seek help on their own, use the information below as a guide for getting an assessment from a mental health professional or medical doctor that specializes in eating disorders.
When supporting a loved one with an eating disorder:
Be understanding and supportive about the illness
Avoid being judgmental by encouraging them to seek treatment without pressuring them into changing their behavior before they are ready. People with eating disorders often have an extremely negative self-image and may feel that they deserve to “punish” themselves with bulimic behaviors. Let your loved one know that you adore them even if they don’t lose enough weight or eat perfectly.
Reassure your loved one that treatment centers exist and can help
Helping a loved one find treatment centers can ease their suffering while increasing their hope for recovery. For some people, bulimia nervosa is like an attack of anxiety, stress, or nervous tension; once these feelings are gone, they generally return to regular eating habits. This is what makes it so difficult to recover from bulimia disorders because sufferers often have no idea that bulimia nervosa treatment centers exist. Let them know that these treatment centers can help them get healthy again.
Be a good listener
The best thing you can do to help someone with bulimia nervosa is to listen. Supportive listening involves being attentive, respecting the other person’s point of view, and not trying to “fix” them or their problem. It’s easy for a loved one with an eating disorder to feel overwhelmed by a sense of isolation because they might feel as though no one understands what they’re going through or that no one cares about their struggle. Being there as a friend and ally will certainly positively affect your relationship. Be patient, and don’t be afraid to assure them that things can get better.
Avoid making comments about thinness
People with eating disorders often worry a lot about their body weight and shape. Try not to make negative remarks about other thin individuals because this could sound like you’re calling your loved one fat or unattractive. Although it’s sometimes hard for family members to observe someone struggling with bulimia nervosa, try not to focus on their weight too much. Instead of causing your loved one to feel pressured into losing more weight, let them know that you care for them no matter what their size is.
Be honest but leave room for denial
It’s important to be honest so that your friend or family member can truly comprehend the severity of eating disorders. Admit if you think they have a problem. But avoid being too specific or using excessive language not to intensify their negative feelings about themselves.
Speak up if you see warning signs of an eating disorder
If you feel that your loved one could benefit from bulimia nervosa treatment, don’t hesitate to say something. Various warning signs indicate when someone is at risk for anorexia nervosa and bulimia, such as:
They’re frequently angry or irritable when they drop weight suddenly. They aren’t interested in cutting back on their food intake or exercise routine if it’s excessive. They also binge and purge frequently. In addition, they isolate themselves from friends and family members. They complain of constipation, stomach pains, and other symptoms suggestive of a GI tract problem if they talk about “feeling fat” all the time despite having lost weight.
Take care of yourself
If you’re worried about supporting a friend or family member with an eating disorder, it’s important to take care of yourself. Dealing with bulimia nervosa can be straining, so do what you have to stay physically and emotionally healthy. Eat well, exercise regularly, get enough sleep, seek your own support network, and keep busy so that you don’t focus too much on eating disorders.
Don’t criticize yourself for not being able to “solve” the problem
Trying harder is excellent, but it won’t make someone recover faster or prevent them from developing an eating disorder. The most helpful thing you can do is offer support without judgment or criticism. It’s OK if they choose not to accept help. There are no right or wrong decisions when it comes to helping someone with an eating disorder. But you can rest assured that your well-intentioned assistance will make a difference in their life.
It’s important to be there for your loved one with an eating disorder, especially if they’re not receiving help. It might feel like you’ve done something wrong when in reality, the only thing you can do is to love them unconditionally and offer support. Remember that recovery takes time, so try to remain patient without expecting miracles overnight.