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How to Help a Loved One with an Eating Disorder

How to Help a Loved One with an Eating Disorder

If a family member or friend has an eating disorder, it may be tough to know what to do. The instinct may be to blame the person for engaging in disordered behaviors. What those closest to the loved one with an eating disorder may not understand is that the eating disorder is not a problem of will or character; it is a serious disease that needs to be treated.

Not Their Fault

Family and friends need to understand eating disorders can happen to anyone. Researchers believe some eating disorders have a genetic component. They also believe eating disorders may have biological, psychological,  behavioral and social factors that can trigger the eating disorder. It is not a lifestyle choice. Much of the disorder has to do with a disjointed relationship with self, food and body image. Eating disorders are a serious mental illness that can lead to permanent injury or even death. As eating disorders are a mental illness, shaming or simply telling someone to stop the behaviors will not lead to recovery.

Some Facts About Eating Disorders

In the United States alone, more than 30 million people suffer from an eating disorder. These individuals come from all walks of life; all ethnicities, genders, and ages. The most common age group is adolescents and young adults, but children and older adults also suffer from eating disorders. Out of all the mental illnesses, eating disorders account for the highest cases of death.

Types of Eating Disorders

The most common types of eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder. However, there are additional eating disorders including Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder (OSFED),  Avoidant / Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) and Diabulimia. Anorexia nervosa is characterized by avoiding or limiting food to very small amounts. Often, those who have anorexia nervosa view themselves as obese even though they are underweight. Bulimia nervosa is when a person binge eats and then vomits, uses laxatives, binge exercises or severely restricts their food intake to get rid of the calories consumed during the binge episode. Binge eating disorder occurs when the person eats a large amount of food in a short time, at times hiding food or eating alone to avoid judgment.

How to Talk with a Loved One About Their Problem

Talking to a loved one about their problem can be difficult. Family members should place judgment when it comes to how the person looks or acts, but instead should talk to them about their concerning actions or behaviors. Do not talk about their weight, but instead explore options and benefits of challenging their eating disorder self and working toward their healthy self. At Monte Nido, our recovered staff are available to help support you on your path to recovery. Contact Monte Nido today where we offer support, without judgment.


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