What Loved Ones Need To Know About Eating Disorders

What Loved Ones Need To Know About Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are very complex mental health conditions and when we find out that a loved one has an eating disorder they are managing, it can be difficult sometimes to know what to say and how to help them out.

People naturally want to help stop people from hurting however they can, and the first step is understanding the causes, symptoms and nature of a person’s disordered eating, which are often very different from our expectations.

There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding eating disorders, and these often need to be unlearned to help support a loved one as they go through their mental health journey.

Here are some important facts to take note of and misconceptions to avoid.


It Is Not Only About Food

Every eating disorder can vary, but very few cases of disordered eating are primarily about food itself, in the same way that a broken hand is not just about struggling to write with a pen.

In the majority of cases, disordered eating is a symptom of a different mental health crisis and professional interventions found at an eating disorder clinic aim to find the causes at the core of an ED to help not only improve a person’s relationship with food but also with themselves.

This is also why attempting to relate experiences of dieting with ED is unhealthy and inappropriate; ED is seldom about food, but about body image, a relationship to self or control as a form of self-harm.

It can sometimes even be caused by external factors such as food insecurity, a common concern in areas with lower incomes.


Comparisons Can Cause Mental Health Triggers

Comparisons in the age of social media can often be bad for our health, and this is especially true when it comes to eating disorders. Whilst not always a trigger, comparing one person’s ED to another can cause them to negatively compare themselves to another person.

Ultimately their ED journey is unique and personal to them, and what has worked for other people may not necessarily work for them.


Try To Avoid Commenting On Their Food

This perhaps goes without saying, as ED often connects to body image issues and commenting on what someone eats, how they look and especially how much they weigh can be intense triggers, as well as being remarkably inconsiderate.

Beyond this, practically speaking it is also ineffective and can put someone at the risk of relapse or affect their ultimate recovery.


The Most Important Act Is To Be Supportive

Eating disorders are often inherently irrational and the only person who can truly take the steps to help them recover is the person with the eating disorder. This can be a long road, and the best way anyone who loves them can help is to be supportive, open and loving.

Being openly loving, supportive and caring carries so much weight and helps a person get the strength to make the more difficult steps towards recovery.

This can include explicit steps such as offering to take them to therapy sessions and specialist treatments, or more implicit signs of support like talking to them, being an open ear or taking them to enjoy fun activities.

Published: 20 September 2022