Tips For Family Members and Friends:
How To Survive an Eating Disorder
2. Accept the fact that there are no quick or easy answers or cures to an eating disorder. Psychotherapists and physicians cannot work "magic". If your loved one or friend is to recover, they must make changes in their attitudes and behaviors. Also, the family must be willing to make some attitude and behavior changes to accommodate your loved one's new insights and growth.
3. Provide your loved one with support and encouragement, but also take care of yourself. Do not sacrifice yourself for your loved one or friend. You accomplish nothing except feeling emotionally drained and resentful. Make time for enjoyable active ities and fun for the family-it sends an important message to the sufferer and gives the family or friends needed relief. Also, continue interests and activities outside the family and encourage the person with the eating disorder to do the same.
4. Give up the concept of blaming. It is not useful or realistic to blame either yourself or the person with the eating disorder. No one is at fault. Guilt and blame are immobilizing and get in the way of recovery. However, it is important to recognize that recovery is the responsibility of the person with the eating disorder. It is equally important to realize that you have a responsibility to become aware of the ways you may be "enabling" (facilitating) or participating in the problem.
5. If your loved one or friend is younger than 18 (legal adulthood), help them get into therapy now. Do not hesitate out of fear that they will hate you or become increasingly ill. If they are over 18, you need to admit that you have no control over whether they will or will not get into therapy. Only they can choose to be helped. You do, however, have control over how you participate in the problems.
6. Don't be overprotective. For example, if they are upset about school, relationships, or work, it is their responsibility to take care of the problem. Don't try to take care of it for them. Do not attempt to protect them by giving them the power to avoid situations that may be distressing. Experiencing and dealing with uncomfortable and unpleasant feelings and situations is part of life and adulthood.
7. Develop dialogue with your child or friend about issues other than food, weight, appearance and achievement. Don't tie your caring to lectures about eating or demands about weight gain. Verbally and physically express honest love and affection to them. They need to know that they are appreciated for the person they are, not for what they do.
8. Avoid monitoring your child's or friend's eating and weight gain. Such power struggles are "no win" battles and will only reinforce an adversarial relationship. Also, they will be less able to perceive you as caring if you engage in such battles. Eating and weight gain is their responsibility.
9. Constructive communication is very important. Do not make statements like "You are ruining the whole - family" or "Why are you doing this to us?"
10. Participate in family therapy or a family menmbers/concerned persons support group to work through your feelings during this emotionally charged period. Don't isolate yourself. A support group or psychotherapy can help you deal with yourself in relationship to the eating disordered family member or friend. Recovery is a process. The duration varies depending upon the individual and the circumstances. Be kind to yourself. Discover new and creative ways of "nourishing', yourself and your families with "food" that will strengthen your inner resources and sustain you through the rough times.
·*Compiled by Elizabeth Williams, Ph.D., Maryland Association for Anorexia Nervosa & Bulimia (Panheilenic I Task Force Page 12 of 20)