Feeling Helpless in the Face of an Eating Disorder

An eating disorder is a serious and complex mental illness. Not only does it have a devastating impact on the induvial, but on the entire family as well. It is never easy to watch a loved one suffer emotionally, physically and mentally. You want to help. The solution at times seems so simple. Unfortunately, this is a common misconception. In an effort to help your loved one, you may find yourself in a power struggle to control their eating behaviors. As a result, the relationship with your loved one may become strained, and other aspects of your family dynamic neglected. You can’t force your loved one to change, but you can support and encourage them. Involving the family becomes a necessary, key component of eating disorder treatment.

Tips for Talking to Your Loved One

⋅ Avoid commenting on appearance and weight

⋅ Explain why you are concerned

⋅ Avoid ultimatums

⋅ Be patient and supportive

⋅ Be prepared for denial and resistance

Benefits of Family Therapy Include

⋅ Insight into struggles and triggers

⋅ Practicing and improving communication

⋅ Education on how eating disorders are treated

⋅ Understanding the caregiver’s role and how to offer support

⋅ Practicing being honest

⋅ Creating structure to achieve family goals

⋅ Learning how to apply the therapy in your everyday life

Family Therapy is a platform of sup­port and though it may be difficult to engage, studies indicate the chances of recovery in­crease and relapse rates decrease when fam­ily is included in a patient’s treatment. For the family, therapy can provide insight into the struggle the person with an eating dis­order is facing. For the patient, family ther­apy offers an opportunity to help them work through triggers, to which the family may unknowingly be contributing to. Communication typically improves as a result of family ther­apy and often leads to a better understanding of how to talk about the disorder, spot signs of a relapse, and what to say when a family member is in trouble.

Additional benefits of Family Therapy include education on how eating disorders are treated; understanding the caregiver’s role and how to offer support; and practic­ing communication and being honest. Fam­ily members learn how to create structure to achieve family goals and how to apply the therapy in their everyday lives.

At EDCare, Family Therapy is based on an empowerment model. “We strongly be­lieve that families do not cause eating dis­orders, while recognizing that families can sometimes unintentionally create roadblocks to recovery. We also believe that everyone in the family has been in some way affected by the eating disorder and as a result, com­munication among family members often breaks down. Our family therapists utilize a strength-based, supportive and recov­ery-focused approach to help families un­lock their potential to be healthy,” said Dr. Sheila Swearngin, program director of EDCare Kansas City.

If you are concerned about yourself or a loved one, please know help is just a call/click away! EDCare offers free, confidential assessment. Contact us today by calling 866-771-0861 or submit an Inquiry Form.

Sheila Swearngin, Ph.D., CEDS

Want to learn more about how you can help your loved one? Read about our Admissions Process or visit our Resources page.