What You Can Do to Help a Loved One With Eating Disorder

man with eating disorder

Eating disorders, such as binge eating, are psychological in nature. As with other psychological disorders, these may be triggered by different factors.

For months now, the pandemic that is COVID-19 has been threatening the world. It has been causing unrest and panic, and it can mentally affect even the best of us. For those who are diagnosed with eating disorders, and other psychological conditions for that matter, the current situation can be extra stressful. It might trigger symptoms and make them relapse despite a rigorous binge eating treatment plan. This is particularly likely if you’re in an area where community quarantines and lockdowns, and patients have no choice but stay at home for days on end.

If you’re at home with a family or friend who was diagnosed with an eating disorder or seem to be showing symptoms, you can help them cope. Check out these tips to support and help them get through this difficult time easier.

Learn everything you can about eating disorders

The first step anyone hoping to help and support someone with an eating disorder should take is to learn everything they can about eating disorders. It’s not proper to make assumptions about a disorder and act according to those assumptions. When you know the basics of the problem, you become better equipped to guide a patient.

Be honest when talking to your loved one about their disorder

Ignoring or avoiding an eating disorder, as well as glorifying or toning it down in any way, will not help anyone. Be honest with your loved one when talking about their disorder, but make sure you do it in private.

Use “I” not “You” when saying anything related to the eating disorder

“You” statements can easily sound like accusations. Examples of these are: “You are eating too much.” “You are not eating enough.” “You are exercising a lot.” When you switch these up to “I” statements, they can help show that you’re concerned and that you’re paying attention. Try the following instead: “I notice you’ve been eating too much.” “I observe you’re not eating enough.” “I see you exercising often and I’m worried you might be doing a lot lately.”

Stick to the facts

When talking to your loved one about anything related to their disorder, stick to the facts and occurrences that you actually observe. Again, do not make assumptions, particularly those that are not backed by facts. Additionally, although it might be difficult for you, refrain from making emotion-laden statements.

Show that you care, but be firm

Dealing with a person with an eating disorder is like disciplining a child. You need to care for them enough that you’re willing to remain firm. You have to stand for your actions and decisions. For instance, if you want to help them avoid binge-eating, store food where you can monitor its consumption. If you need to decide to keep all bedroom doors open, you have to be firm about that, too.

Be prepared for backlash

Your loved one may attempt to retaliate. You need to stand your ground while remaining patient. Do not confront them at the height of their emotions. Let them let out what they feel. Once they’ve calmed down, try to reiterate your intention and make them understand that you’re not against them, but that you’re simply trying to help them cope.

Eating Disorder Treatments Best Work When Loved Ones Support Patients

Eating disorder treatments and rehabilitation work best when friends and loved ones show support toward patients. This way, the patients feel that they are not alone, and that people understand what they are going through. They also get a sense of belongingness, feeling that people are rooting for them to get better.

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