How to Help a Loved One With Anorexia

In order to help a loved one with anorexia, it’s important to remember that there’s only so much you can do. Ultimately, recovery is the responsibility of the individual.

Yet if you are watching a friend or family member suffer from what can be a devastating, debilitating condition, there are a few things you can do to offer support, motivation and healing.

1. Encourage professional intervention

From an outsider’s perspective, it can be easy to assume that anorexia can be cured with just enough positive thinking and a willingness to eat.

But this isn’t the case at all. Anorexia is a serious mental health condition that often requires professional intervention.

Therefore, one of the best ways you can help a loved one is to encourage that person to seek help. Individual or group therapy can allow for a space to talk about the core problems that may be causing the disorder eating behaviors, while family or couple’s therapy can provide a safe setting to explore the dynamics of how your loved one’s eating disorder may be impacting his or her relationships.

Other options that can be helpful are nutritional counseling, support groups for people with eating disorders or in- or out-patient treatment programs at a local recovery center or medical clinic.

2. Be a listener, not an advice-giver

The desire to help and give advice to someone that is suffering from anorexia is normal but it’s rarely helpful, since true recovery has to happen because a person wants to get well.

That said, work more on being a better listener and less on giving advice to your loved one. People with anorexia usually already know what they “should” do, but this is different than actually doing it.

The more you can lend a supportive hand by offering a non- judgmental presence, the better you are able to support your loved one in making empowered decisions.

3. Promote healthy self-esteem

Self-esteem often comes hard for anorexics, even if outside appearances suggest they have everything to feel good about.

As someone who loves and cares for this individual, it’s important to help emphasize his or her strengths, talents and positive traits.

Keep in mind, too, that it’s usually best to focus on non-physical attributes, as emphasizing outer beauty can only feed the obsession to be thin.

Also, pay attention to your own actions, words and behaviors. Are you an example of high self-esteem? Work on presenting an air of confidence and self-respect around your loved one and he or she may be inspired to follow suit.

Source: Help Guide

Eating Disorder Self Test. Take the EAT-26 self test to see if you might have eating disorder symptoms that might require professional evaluation. All answers are confidential.

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