When you suspect that a loved one might be suffering from anorexia, it can be difficult and painful to confront, especially if that person does not realize it is already happening. Your support at this time is crucial, as individuals with body image issues might be ambivalent about letting go of his or her habits or are ashamed or afraid to seek help. Anorexia nervosa treatment centers exist to help families with this struggle.
It is never easy to discuss eating disorders, especially with people you care about. However, extending help and dealing with the possible initial backlash could be the only thing that will save that person from danger. But how do you help someone who rejects the assistance in the first place?
Talking to a Loved One About Eating Problems
Before you confront a person about a possible eating problem, you must understand and learn more about the concern so that you can provide proper guidance. It won’t help at all if you’re as lost as the other person, and you could end up being shut out even more. You can begin by reading information online or books about anorexia and other eating disorders, so you can differentiate between fact and fiction. Your loved one might be driven by incorrect information, which is why he or she is not eating properly.
Set a time and place to talk to the person privately. Nobody wants to be confronted about a problem in the middle of a crowd. Use “I” statements as much as you can, focusing on strange behaviors that you yourself have observed. Avoid referring to other people and telling the person what others have observed because this might cause him or her to be defensive or hostile.
During the conversation, it’s best to just stick to the facts and avoid telling the person why you think he or she is doing it. You are not there to analyze the situation. You’re just there to bring up factual events and behaviors that are out of the ordinary. Take up a caring but firm tone, while reminding your loved one that there’s no problem in admitting that there’s an issue that needs to be addressed. It also will never help if you dismiss the condition and simplify it with statements such as “Just eat something” or “Stop doing it.”
Take note that anorexia and other eating disorders are more a mental health issue than a physical problem, so be prepared to be met with a negative reaction. Just assure the person that you are there to help and that he or she can call you if they need anything at all. Planting this seed of caring can pave the path toward acknowledgment and recovery.
Seeking Professional Help
As eating disorders are a mental health concern, it is best that your loved one seek professional help as soon as possible. You can offer the assistance of a therapist or a physician, or offer to go with the person for a checkup and assessment. There are plenty of anorexia nervosa treatment centers all over the country, so getting the help that is needed quickly will not be so difficult. There are also plenty of treatment options that involve individual or group therapies, so the patient will not feel isolated, knowing that there are others who are going through the same experience.
The bottom line about helping a loved one with an eating disorder is to make the person know that you are ready and available to provide assistance: no judgments and no pressure.