Eating Disorder Referral and Information Center
International Eating Disorder Referral Organization
Helping Loved Ones
Is Your Child Struggling With an Eating Disorder - Tell ABC News? If you have an 8 to 12-year-old child currently battling an eating disorder, ABC News would like to hear your story. Please tell them what condition your child has and the type of treatment, if any, he or she is receiving. Please include your city and state and how they can best get in touch with you. Website: http://abcnews.go.com/2020/mailform?id=13526773.
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Offer your observations in a caring but direct manner. Try to be as specific as you can regarding your observations and concerns.
Tell the person you are worried and would like them to seek help.
Encourage the person to express their feelings openly and listen intently. Do not be judgmental instead ask questions about what was expressed.
Do not argue with the person as to whether or not they have an eating disorder - this will not help. Emphasize that you have heard their feelings and be compassionate. Re-focus on your concerns and fears and indicate that you do not feel things will change without intervention.
Gather information and resources for eating disorder treatment. Present the information to your friend or loved one. Further, express the desire to be of help. Ask them to at least see a professional once before making a "snap judgment" on treatment.
In some cases there is concern that the disorder has reached a life-threatening stage. If the disorder has reached this point enlist mental health professionals who can help you intervene. Stand united and confront the victim strongly and compassionately. Also, if a person is suicidal make sure you get professional help immediately.
Denial is frequently part of the illness, so expect that anger and refusals to seek help may present themselves. You cannot force someone into treatment you can only express your concerns and observations. This scenario may leave you feeling frustrated, angry or helpless. Remember that you can always broach the subject in the future. Let your friend or family member know that if your concerns continue that you would like to discuss the issue with them again and DO IT!
Tell yourself that you have done what you can do. Realize that approaching the subject with your friend/loved one has opened the door to further discussions. These discussions may be more open, honest and may lead to treatment. One can only attempt to intervene but realize that the most effective form of treatment will involve the sufferer wanting and accepting the help provided.
Remember there is hope, there is help.....seek it for yourself if necessary.
*Adapted from "How to help a loved one into counseling" by Dr. Kevin Grold
* Adapted from EDAP, Eating Disorder Awareness and Prevention, 1998, "How to help a friend.", see www.nationaleatingdisorders.org
Focus on feelings and interpersonal relationships - not on food and weight. Family members are often the forgotten members, especially other children. It is important that they talk about their feelings.
Do not let the eating disordered family member disrupt the entire household. The family should go on with their lives as normally as possible.
Do not allow the eating disorder family member to shop, cook or feed the family. Do not let the eating disordered family member dominate the rest of the families eating patterns. In nurturing others, eating disorder sufferers are denying their own need for food. Families should go on with normal eating patterns. These details will need to be worked out with the therapist.
Set limits in a caring, reasonable, but firm manner.
Help the family show affection and appreciation for each other. Underneath disordered eating is a lack of self-worth; thus unconditional love goes a long way.
Work on how to avoid power struggles and find alternative ways of dealing with problems as they arrive. Let the therapist and/or physician deal with "highly-charged" issues such as weight.
Realize that there are no quick solutions. Demanding change, and/or berating the eating disordered family member will not bring about change or a positive result. Be patient.
Avoid having the eating disordered family member make too many decisions about food and other issues. Control is a big issue that must be addressed in therapy. One can not attempt to over control the eating disordered family member. The therapist can help balance out these issues.
Parents will need to examine alternatives to their current behaviors (i.e. yelling, pleading, etc. Family members should write in journals, write letters to each other, call the therapist, and write down situations that they need assistance with and provide to therapist and family sessions.
The family needs to talk about all kinds of issues - not just focus on the problems or the eating disorder.
*Adapted from Your Dieting Daughter: Is She Dying for Attention? by Carolyn Costin, M.A., M.Ed. MFT published by Brunner/Mazel, New York, New York. see www.montenido.com
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Your Dieting Daughter: Is She Dying for Attention? by Carolyn Costin, M.A., M.Ed. MFT published by Brunner/Mazel, New York, New York (1997). Carolyn Costin is an eating disorder specialist and the director of the Monte Nido Treatment Center: A Residential Treatment Center for women suffering from anorexia, bulimia, and exercise addiction http://www.montenido.com
Natenshon, Abigail. When Your Child Has an Eating Disorder: A Step by Step Workbook (1999).
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*We cannot diagnose or treat eating disorders by email, but we can send you information and assist you in finding resources. Information provided by the Eating Disorder Referral and Information Center is not a substitute for medical treatment or psychological care. It is vital that you talk with your physician and a qualified mental health professional regarding eating disorder symptoms and treatment.
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