Watching someone you love suffer from a disorder like anorexia nervosa is painful. You may feel helpless, afraid and even angry about the situation. Fortunately, you can take steps to help a loved one diagnosed with anorexia deal with and recover from this illness.
People suffering from eating disorders are often secretive about their habits. They’ll make excuses for not eating, such as “I’m not hungry,” or “I ate a big lunch.” People with anorexia are very good at hiding their destructive habits from others, but don’t let this deter you. You need to say something, and you need to make sure your words are heard.
Many anorexic people won’t admit they have a problem, which makes it even more difficult to try and help. Whether they simply don’t want your interference, or they truly believe they do not have a problem, many anorexia patients are resistant to treatment and other forms of assistance, even if they have been professionally diagnosed.
To combat this, be firm in your intervention by explaining what you see, why you think it’s a serious issue, and the steps you’d like to see them take to get better. Never approach a loved one with anger over his unhealthy habits, as this may lead to further resistance. Always be kind, patient and persistent.
While individual therapy for the person afflicted is the cornerstone of these treatments, family therapy is an important supplement.
In family therapy, family members and close friends are given the opportunity to contribute to the recovery of their loved one. You’ll provide support by helping to ensure your loved one is following the recommended diet and exercise plans laid out by her doctor. Additionally, you’ll participate in doctor-patient therapy sessions and report on the progress or regressions that your loved one has made.
Family therapy can also be an appropriate place to air out any of the frustrations and resentments that often occur when one party pushes another to make life-changes, even for the sake of her own health.
Looking Forward: Providing Continued Support
Even after participating in individual and family therapy, as well as other means of treatment, anorexia patients must remain vigilant about maintaining healthy eating and exercise habits–and they’ll need your help. About 20 percent of patients relapse after treatment and remission. You can help by continuing to provide your love and support, and by speaking up when you see a slide back toward negative habits.
Coping with anorexia in a loved one is difficult, but by intervening and encouraging patients to seek proper treatments for anorexia, you could save her life.