Is this you?
Emotions and Behaviour
- You are worried about someone but they become angry if you try to talk. You don’t know how to approach them.
- You know there is an eating disorder, but they deny that anything is wrong.
- They agree that there is a problem but won’t get help. You are panicking.
- Someone you care for is having treatment but nothing seems to change. You feel shut out and confused.
- You have arguments with others about how to handle the problem and this adds to your stress.
- Everything is disrupted, your work and ability to get on with things; you are depressed, anxious and feel rejected. You may be blaming yourself for what is happening.
- Your mental and physical health is badly affected.
- You are grieving for what your loved one is losing out on and everything in your life has become a servant to your loved one’s terrible relationship with food.
We will help you to help yourselves and your loved one. Carers and friends can be valuable allies for someone with an eating disorder, making it more likely that someone will accept help and commit to treatment. Recovery is possible with the right support. We will give you the support and advice you need.
Eating disorder specialists know that when carers understand eating disorders, and what is and is not helpful, it is more likely that their loved one will recover – in time. Or, the eating disorder symptoms may become less severe. Here are some of the things you need to know:
- An eating disorder is not caused by any single person or situation, acerbic divorces or separations. Parents do not cause eating disorders. Yes, there might be many sources of stress in the life of a sufferer but the problem is more their intrinsic sensitivity than what has happened to them. This sensitivity may be coded in their genes or may be part of their history, we will never know which.
- If there is, or has been stress in the family, dealing with the stress is helpful. Recovery is much more likely if carers pull together, take external advice if they disagree and don’t aggress against each other. Carers who use the eating disorder to score points against family members are likely to make the problem worse.
- Parents who get help for how they feel about the eating disorder are more likely to be a good resource. They have a better chance that the loved one will turn round. You can get this help from a good eating disorder professional, from a self-help group, or online forum.
- Carers who feel that it is not enough to understand the eating disorder will benefit from having an advocate who will guide them through times of stress and despair. They need to know several important things.
- Anorexia has a natural course that may or may not be affected by therapy and the average span is 7 years, maybe more and maybe less. 1 in 5 anorexics die early often due to suicide rather than starvation but 4 in 5 recover eventually – have hope!
- Untreated bulimia rarely gets better on its own; can last for many years and some people learn to get on with life by “hiding it away” while other people can be severely harmed by it. If untreated, there is also a risk of long term fatality due to suicide or other forms of self-harm.
- Anorexics can continue losing weight even after someone gets help, due to resistance and rebellion. But early cases of anorexia are rarely fatal. If someone collapses it is not a tragedy. It can help persuade the sick person that they are not as fine as they think they are.
- Keeping an anorexic person safe by putting them in hospital, if necessary, can be useful until they are insightful enough or tired enough of their disorder to wish to change. But even if there is a turning point, it can be a struggle to get well.
- A carer will need help to grieve for the person who “could have been” who has surrendered their potential, or who has been “stolen” by the eating disorder. This grief needs to be fully understood and managed by someone who can also hold out hope. There is a high death rate among people with eating disorders; however, by far the majority go on to recover from the worst of their symptoms.
- People with serious eating problems have very poor self-regard for no good reason at all. It is probably that they are irrationally perfectionist and very hard on themselves. They may appear as special, proud and different, which is important to them. This is a grandiose symptom of very low self-worth. It is useless to tell people who hate themselves (even unconsciously) that they are really nice people after all. Low self-worth may persist for a lifetime but it takes the job of a psychotherapist to help someone to grow a new more helpful set of self-beliefs.
- People who deny that they have a problem usually know that they are very sick but they don’t want to surrender to our concerns in case they are giving in to us. They are usually very scared to stop what they are doing for irrational reasons. They may convince themselves that they can get by as they are. A good therapist can help them to express their ambivalence to change, safely and without judgement.
The Next Step
Please do not hesitate to contact Lois Bridges on (01) 839 6147 – click here to learn more about our Family Program