I am often asked what someone can do to help an individual who they think has an eating disorder. Here are my thoughts and some information from National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA).
"Parents, siblings and close friends play a significant role in guiding and supporting others. In many cases, individuals with eating disorders cannot recognize a need for help in themselves, and it takes a strong, caring individual to reach out.
If you are worried about your friend’s eating behaviors or attitudes, it is important to express your concerns in a loving and supportive way. It is also necessary to discuss your worries early on, rather than waiting until your friend has endured many of the damaging physical and emotional effects of eating disorders." -NEDA
I agreed that confronting your loved one is imperative. However, as a parent talking to their teen, I know first hand it may only led to fights and in my case running to my room in tears feeling that they didn't understand.
Parents still need to confront their teens no matter how confrontational. Here is a suggestion that I think is invaluable. My close friend Micaela, who is also a survivor of anorexia, said she thinks parents need to inform themselves about the disorder beforehand. Learn that the symptom of starving yourself is rooted in deeper issues and isn't a "phase" and it isn't as easy as "just eat."
Talk to your teen by telling them you understand that their behavior comes from a serious underlining problem that needs to be treated. Let them know you are not disappoint in them, that you have unconditional love for them and be honest about your fears.
There is power in numbers. After hearing concern from friends, relatives, siblings, and parents their combined "accusations" did make me realize there was a problem. But the disease was too powerful and addictive. It controlled me and I didn't know how to stop it. That is why it is important to get your loved one into treatment. A person can NOT beat this disease alone. 22% of anorexics die, that statistic drops to 2-3% if you get treatment.
Don't give up on them. Sometimes it takes hitting rock bottom. It took me literally feeling my body die and knowing my body was shutting down before I got help. Don't let your loved one reach this point. Tell them the disease will only get worse and they will never be happy with their appearance or number on the scale. I hated myself just as much or worse at 150 pounds as I did weighing 85. (I'm happy to report I no longer harbor any self-loathing thoughts)
Next, know there is HOPE! Your friend/child can overcome this disease and leave it behind forever. I have been completely recovered for over 11 years and have never fallen back. A happy full life is obtainable, it starts with you confronting your loved one and getting them professional help.
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