Caring for Someone with an Eating Disorder in Mind

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Caring for someone with an eating disorder can be difficult. Here's some information and advice that may help.

Be ready to listen

An eating disorder is very serious mental illness and often someone with an eating disorder will act in a way that is difficult to understand. 

To recover, they will need family and friends to be patient with them and to accept them as they are. This support will help them face the original issues that caused the eating disorder and gradually change their eating habits.

Have the courage to talk to them about it

If you are worried about a friend or family member and think you are starting to recognise signs of an eating disorder developing, the first step is to talk about it. An eating disorder will not go away by itself and so it is important that you talk to them about it.

Approaching someone about their illness can be very difficult. They will often be very embarrassed about their illness and may not accept that they have a problem. 

Find a safe place to talk, at the right time and in a non-patronising way. If you feel you are not the right person to talk about it, suggest they talk to someone else that they trust. It could be a sibling, a friend, a teacher, or another family member.

Be sensitive

An eating disorder is a mental illness so trying to get someone to eat will not help them recover.

Recovery is a slow process.

Allow your loved one to deal with food increases/changes/challenges in their own time. 

As your friends or relative journeys through recovery there will be times where they make progress and times where it seems as if they aren’t, but also times of weakness. 

According to Beat:

"Everyone who recovers from an eating disorder tells us how important it was to have unconditional love and support from those who care about them, even when they knew their behaviour was quite difficult to understand."

Find support for yourself

Find a support group with other carers where you can share frustrations and encouragement. Make sure that you have time for yourself, it will take a lot of patience, energy and strength to support your friend or family member and this can be tiring. 

Remember they do love you even though they may not act that way. Love is the strongest bond to fight this illness!

For more information on how to recognise Eating Disorders in young people visit the youth pages on the beat website. There, you can also find out what treatment is available.