Eating Disorders: What Loved Ones Can Do

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Eating Disorders: What Loved Ones Can Do
Eating Disorders: What Loved Ones Can Do
Video: Eating Disorders: What Loved Ones Can Do
Video: How to Provide Eating Disorder Support for a Loved One | HELP WITHOUT HURTING 2023, February

Eating disorders: what loved ones can do

Many parents are insecure and feel helpless and overwhelmed when their daughter / son has an eating disorder - or is suspected of having an eating disorder. Dealing with the disease and the way out can be different.

As a parent, a legal guardian or an adult, close person, you can, for example, help ensure that medical help is sought. (Special) advice centers also offer information, support and contact addresses.


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  • more on the subject
  • Advice, downloads & tools
  • What parents can do
  • You should know that
  • For the family and for yourself
  • What to do with thoughts of suicide

What parents can do

A doctor will diagnose and treat an eating disorder (both physical and mental). Sometimes this is also done in a specialized clinic.

As a parent, you can help ensure that medical help is sought and received. You can support and contribute to changing the behavior and factors that are involved in the perpetuation of the disease. Many parents would like to give their child unlimited help. However, the difficulties and problems of an eating disorder can only be overcome with professional help. Parents can and should in any case observe and stay in contact with the child / young person. Permanent or partial monitoring, on the other hand, can be counterproductive.

Many different factors are involved in the development and development of an eating disorder. Even if the family or a person alone is not the reason, blame and self-reproach can occur with parents. Various emotions such as anger, anger, or sadness - because of your own behavior or that of someone else - are normal to some extent. If they are stressful, the help of a counseling center can be accepted or a discussion about it with the treating doctor or a psychotherapist can be useful. An eating disorder not only burdens those affected, but also affects the family and the immediate environment. However, parenting support is essential in treating an eating disorder.Because then the situation and difficulties can be mastered together.

You should know that

Inform the child / young person about decisions and, if possible, do not make them on your own, but involve them. Often those affected have to be convinced that the doctor needs to be seen. Here's what you can do:

  • Look and act. Eating disorders are not "phases of puberty" that go away on their own. Accepting the disease is an essential step.
  • To gather information. At the doctor or a counseling center.
  • Support together. Dealing with the situation is particularly difficult for you alone. Ideally, both parents support. Even if parents live separately, they should look for a common path and try to avoid arguments among themselves and focus on helping their child. Sometimes it is necessary to insistently demand the support of the partner.
  • Accept conversation attempts by the child / young person. In everyday life it is not always easy to respond to the wishes of others. Try to create a space and offer an opportunity to talk - either when you feel strong enough (physically and mentally) to do so, or at another agreed time.
  • Speak to. Without blaming or exaggerating. Pick a quiet time to talk about what you are experiencing and how you are feeling, such as worrying that your behavior has changed. Many parents fear such a conversation. However, it is important to offer help even if the offer is not accepted, at least for the time being. Avoid dealing exclusively with the topics "figure" or "losing weight" in the conversation and getting involved in discussions on these topics. Let your child know when you need support, for example from a counseling center or the doctor (not behind your back!). Even if your child denies, has excuses, or reacts aggressively, try to stay calm and establish a conversation.
  • Move to see a doctor. As a parent, you are responsible for your child. Eating disorders can have serious consequences. If your child is ready for therapy, you should support this. Show interest in therapy without your interference. Do not try to elicit information about therapy from your child. Even if you are not at all satisfied with it: Respect the decisions (treatment can also be discontinued) and the privacy of the child / adolescent. Do not try to monitor your child all the time.
  • Advise the counseling center. And leave information material at home accessible to others. You cannot force the person affected to seek advice. Threats are out of place - and attempts to persuade people often fail. Anonymous consultations are possible and may be easier, e.g. by telephone. Be aware that it will take time to get advice or treatment.

For the family and for yourself

Some tips and hints can help the child / young person and their parents or legal guardians, for example:

  • Get help yourself. For example at a counseling center.
  • Don't forget family life and live your own life. An eating disorder puts a strain on the entire family. It is also a difficult situation for siblings. Open “talking about it” is often helpful. Make it clear that it is okay if feelings and needs are expressed and boundaries are set, for example by being angry, upset, or helpless, that it is okay not to want to talk about food all the time, by the person concerned to be cooked for - or to treat them "like a raw egg". Meeting friends, having fun and living your own life is important for children, teenagers and adults. Here, too, the help of a counseling center can provide support.
  • To make rules. And implement it consistently - e.g. in connection with food. If your child is anorexic and the situation is very stressful, you can arrange separate meals to enable the other family members to eat more relaxed and more enjoyable. Anorexics can happily cook a lot for others. However, they do not eat with them themselves. It can make sense to forbid the anorexic person to stay in the kitchen or to cook for others.
  • Exchange with others. Exchanges with friends and relatives can also be helpful, but this can also be unsettling. You can get tips and advice from special advice centers. You can find more information about counseling options under Eating Disorders: Advice & Help.

What to do with thoughts of suicide

Thoughts of suicide may occur in people who have an eating disorder. These are often expressed indirectly, e.g. "It's all pointless - I don't want to anymore."

Note Do not look away and act. Get help and contact a doctor. Call the rescue (144) in acute situations!

The Vienna Crisis Intervention Center also offers helpful links to contact points throughout Austria and further information at

For more information, see Recognizing Suicide Risk.

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