How To Support Someone With An Eating Disorder

“Eating disorders have the highest mortality of any psychiatric illness, even higher than depression. This is due to the complexity of both emotional and physical complications from the eating disorder,” reports Dr. Kevin Wandler, Medical Director at The Meadows Ranch.

Proper treatment for an eating disorder is imperative, especially, because, over time, individuals suffering from an eating disorder lose their ability to see themselves objectively. They become obsessed with food, and their weight dominates every facet of their life. Solutions to these problems are not as simple as many people think.

5 Tips for Helping Someone with an Eating Disorder

Individuals suffering from eating disorders need all of the support you can give them. Keep in mind that they may react defensively and become quite upset when confronted about their condition. It is important to not give up or lose hope.

Here are just a few things you can do when interacting with someone struggling with an eating disorder:

  • Educate Yourself – By learning as much as you can about eating disorders you become better equipped in helping your friend or loved one recover and/or seek out treatment. A little bit of research can help you learn the difference between eating disorder facts and myths. This will help reason with them in spite of their disordered eating habits and may help them to understand that they need treatment.
  • Talk To Them – Discuss your observations and your concerns for their health in a calm and non-judgmental manner. Tell them you are concerned about their health, but be respectful of their privacy. Eating disorders are often a cry for help so talk openly and honestly about your concerns. Sometimes individuals with eating disorders are struggling to find a way to express their situation, so by talking to them, you may help them feel safe enough to open up and express their problems.
  • Empathize – Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. This does not mean telling the person that you know how they feel because you do not—focus on feelings and relationships, not on the food and weight. Let the person know that they are loved and cared for. Knowing that someone will be there for them is a great source of comfort.
  • Listen – There is no universally perfect thing to say to someone suffering from an eating disorder. Throughout every stage of recovery, they will need lots of support. Their body may heal faster than their mind, and they may need someone they trust to help them through their struggle.
  • Encourage Them – Many people suffering from eating disorders find it very difficult to let go of their disease because their behavior, no matter how harmful, served a purpose in that person’s life. The person may also be struggling with mental illness such as depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, etc. in addition to the eating disorder. Recovery can be an intimidating process for people and by encouraging them and showing them support you can help them learn how to believe in them, as well.

Seek Out Eating Disorder Treatment

Dr. Wandler states, “The Meadows Ranch’ treatment programs encompass a path to recovery using a bio-psycho-social-spiritual program that is individualized for each of our patients. We have hospital care available as well as residential and partial hospital care. This allows an individual to receive the appropriate treatment experience at the appropriate time and prepare the individual for continuing care at home.”

Eating disorders are a form of mental illness. They make a person lie, engage in deception, hide their symptoms, and become withdrawn and defensive. Their thoughts are often delusional, and they believe what their eating disorder is telling them. Keep in mind that this is not the time for a power struggle, placing shame, blame or guilt and there is no simple solution.

If you suspect that someone you care about has an eating disorder, make it clear that you will be there for him or her. Demonstrate your compassion and support. You may find that they have been afraid to ask for help. Many people who suffer from eating disorders have such low self-esteem that they genuinely do not believe they are worthy of help.

That being said eating disorders will only get worse if they are left untreated. The sooner you are able to help your friend or loved one get treatment, the better their chances are of recovery. If you notice the warning signs of an eating disorder in a friend or a loved one, don’t let those worries prevent you from expressing your concerns.

Your support and encouragement can make a huge difference in helping someone struggling with an eating disorder. Although you cannot force them to immediately change their destructive behavior, your love can help put them towards the path of treatment.

We Are Here to Help

The Meadows Ranch has treated eating disorders for more than 20 years. We know recovery from an eating disorder is possible. Based on feedback from patients, families and professionals, the vast majority of our patients remain committed to a life of health, balance and purpose.

For additional information about The Meadows Ranch’ specialized treatment for eating disorders, please call to speak to one of our caring Intake Coordinators at 866-390-5100, and we will contact you with the information you need.

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