Tips for Handling Difficulties With Eating Disorders
Caring for a person with an eating disorder may bring on frightening obstacles, but remember to follow these strategies should an emergency or setback come up:
- Pay attention to physical symptoms and go to the hospital when necessary. Eating disorders can present serious medical emergencies. Hospitalization and residential treatment are sometimes necessary in order to stabilize any serious health issues. If the individual has deliberately injured him/herself, is disorientated, is expressing warning signs of suicide, is dehydrated or has vomited several times a day, has blood in his or her bowel movements, has collapsed, fainted or is too weak to walk, seek help immediately.
- Enroll your loved one into a treatment program. Research the treatment provider or facility to assure that the program addresses both the physical and psychological factors. The program should also promote a healthy relationship with food and teach constructive ways to cope with challenges. Find the type of therapy that works best for the individual. There are individual, family and group options at most reputable treatment facilities. Nutritional counseling can also be instrumental in learning to create balanced meals and set healthy goals.
- Be familiar with relapse signs. Relapse is not uncommon. Ask your loved one’s medical care professional for specific signs to look for, considering his or her diagnosis. Major life changes, transitions, challenges and instability are potential triggers.
- Avoid triggers like discussing weight and body image. Even comments that feel positive such as telling your loved one that he or she is beautiful may come across as inauthentic and patronizing to your loved one. Image-based comments focus attention on the body, which already has too much of his or her attention. In a society that is obsessively looks-based, try instead to recognize other strengths in your loved one such as his or her character, actions, skills or talents.
Find Out About Resources to Help Care for a Person With an Eating Disorder
There are many resources out there for caregivers with wards with eating disorders. Whether online or in person, caregivers have options to seek support and assistance with their patients and loved ones. The following resources provide more information on eating disorders.
About the Telephone Hotlines for Eating Disorders
Telephone hotlines are often the first step individuals take to seek help and gather information for an eating disorder. The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) Helpline is available from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. (EST) on Monday to Thursday and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (EST) on Fridays. Call 1-800-931-2237 to speak with one of the trained staff members. The NEDA also offers a database of treatment providers around the country and the website has many articles covering a range of eating disorder topics such as free and low-cost options for support.
About Online Resources for Eating Disorders
Other organizations to look into are the Academy for Eating Disorders (AED), the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa & Related Disorders (ANAD), the Binge Eating Disorder Association (BEDA) and the Eating Disorders Coalition (EDC).
Learn About Community Suggestions
Your first line of contact should be with your loved one’s health care professional. Community-based organizations are also excellent resources for building positive, constructive, new relationships in a support group.
Learn Caregiver Self-Care Strategies
You loved one’s eating disorder has a profound effect on your own life and well-being. It’s important for you to protect your own mental, emotional and physical health during this stressful time. You can’t do it alone. Without professional support and treatment, your attempts to help your loved one may be ineffective.
Leaving the heavy lifting to specially trained professionals gives you room to focus your energy toward effective strategies such as supporting the treatment plan and fostering recovery. Even so, the process can be frustrating and tiring. Be kind to yourself by practicing these self-care tips:
- Don’t blame yourself for your loved one’s eating disorder. No one is at fault. Constantly berating yourself or wondering what you could or should have done is not constructive. Be in the present moment. Stay realistic, but also be hopeful.
- Recovery isn’t linear. There may be good days and bad days, steps forward and steps back. Dealing with a disorder is a marathon, not a sprint. Be prepared to be in it for the long haul. In order to have the energy to keep going, fighting for and supporting your loved one, you need to meet your own needs.
- Take some time to yourself. Continue to pursue the activities and hobbies you enjoy. If you let the eating disorder derail your life as well, then its destructive force continues to grow.
- Take care of your own health and respect your energy levels. Attend regular checkups, eat nutritious meals and stay active.
- Don’t be afraid to set boundaries. For instance, you want to be there to talk to your loved one, but you won’t be able to pick up the phone while you are at work or sleeping. You also need room to work through your own thoughts and feelings.
- Get connected with a support group. You can share your feelings and frustrations with people who understand your situation. Don’t be afraid to seek professional help, if necessary.
There are many resources for you and your loved one. With the right treatment and support, recovery is possible.