woman with eating disorder

How to Help a Loved One with an Eating Disorder

Eating disorders are more common than we might think. In the U.S., about 30 million Americans have eating disorders, such as binge eating disorder, bulimia, and anorexia. In Connecticut, 3.4% of the population has an eating disorder, with females twice as likely to be affected than males and with children as young as 10 developing a disease.

Whether it’s a family member, a classmate, or a friend, discovering their battle against an eating disorder can lead to many questions. How did it start? Why do they have an eating disorder? What can I do to help?

If you’re reading this article, you likely are concerned about your loved one and want to help with their struggles. Helping someone through an eating disorder isn’t easy, but it can be done with patience and the right guidance.

Understanding the eating disorder

The first thing that you have to do is to understand the eating disorder so that you’ll know what exactly your loved one is going through. Gather every information about the disease that you can. You can do an online search using reputable sources, or you can also talk to an expert like a psychiatrist.

Although there are many kinds of eating disorders, the three most common ones are anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorders.

People with anorexia starve themselves for fear of becoming fat, often leading to grotesque thinness and malnourishment. Despite being thin, anorexic people never believe that they’re thin enough.

Bulimic patients also fear to get fat and start a destructive cycle of bingeing and purging.

Lastly, people with binge eating disorders compulsively overeat, often as a coping mechanism. Despite being guilty of their binge eating habits, they can’t stop themselves.

If you can’t determine the eating disorder of your loved one, it’s crucial to talk to an expert such as The Center for Cognitive and Behavioral Health.

Talk to your loved one

mother and daughter

Although it’s intimidating to voice concerns that may not be valid, it’s still important to talk to your loved one if you’re concerned about their well-being.

You have to be very careful in your approach. Patients with eating disorders are often afraid to ask for help because they fear being judged. Never use a judgmental or condescending tone but be patient and understanding.

You should also pick a good time to talk to them in private and without any distractions. Never criticize or lecture them but cite instances where you’ve noticed that something’s wrong and explain why they worry you.

Patients with an eating disorder are often in denial, so be prepared to handle denials and defensiveness. When that happens, you need to stay focused, calm, and respectful.

If they refuse help the first time, don’t give up on them. Stay patient and supportive. Once they’re prepared to get some help, you can help them get a proper treatment plan in Westport.

An eating disorder robs someone of their ability to live a healthy, happy life. But with a strong support system that believes in them and their own will to get better, overcoming an eating disorder is possible.