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Independent medical expert answers on psychiatry and psychology

Family Members and Friends of Those with Eating Disorders (Anorexia, Bulimia) ; tips

This page abstract: How can family members and friends help people with eating disorders? What can family members and friends do to help a person with an eating disorder?

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Family Members and Friends of Those with Eating Disorders (Anorexia, Bulimia) ; tips

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Question(s): 
Written by: Gunborg Palme, certified psychologist and certified psychotherapist, teacher and tutor in psychotherapy.
First version: 22 Jul 2008.
Latest revision: 10 Aug 2008.

Can you give tips on how family members and friends can help people with eating disorders (Anorexia, Bulimia, Binge Eating)? What can family members and friends do to help a person with an eating disorder?

Answer:

Here are some things which family members and friends should bear in mind:

  1. By all means talk to the affected person, but do it in a kind way. Don't feel insulted if the person becomes angry. Don't accuse, avoid causing feelings of guilt, try to listen and understand.
  2. Show your affection, sympathy and understanding, especially in the difficult period when a person is beginning to come to grips with the problem.
  3. Show that you care, ask how the person is feeling.
  4. Don't demand the necessary changes in weight, but discuss the situation and listen to what the person with the eating disorder has to say.
  5. Suggest that the person get adequate therapy. Don't try to give more help than you have competence for.
  6. Don't let the sick person dominate, even if the family needs to take consideration. Just as the family of an alcoholic needs to accept not to have alcohol at home, the family of a person with an eating disorder needs to accept not to have tempting junk food at home.
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