As Action Mental Health continues to mark Eating Disorder Awareness Week, the dedicated team from our specialist eating disorder service AMH everyBODY today offers useful tools on how to help someone you love cope with their disorder.
By offering patience, and reassurance, while listening without judgement, you can help people feel less alone as they journey through the frightening stages of their eating disorder.
It can be frustrating to see someone you love struggling and not fully understand. Be aware that part of BED is feelings of guilt and shame, so recognise how difficult it may be for your loved one to open up. Create a safe space for them to do so, pick an environment they are comfortable in and perhaps on a 1 to 1 basis. Use “I” statements so that your observations don’t come across as accusatory “I have noticed you’ve withdrawn a bit recently, how have you been feeling?” Show compassion for their experience and validate their feelings.
BED can have a lot of shame and stigma attached to it, so approach it sensitively. Don’t focus on weight or how much they are eating, make sure the focus is on their mental health and how they are feeling. Try not to use negative language around your own body or eating as this could lead to them feeling shame around their own body and eating habits.
Eating disorders are complex and it is more than likely an eating disorder didn’t develop overnight and may take some time to recover from. Recovery is not linear, and there will be bumps along the way. Check in regularly with your loved one you are supporting but also respect their boundaries and understand that they may not always be able to talk.
What we see about eating disorders in the media are very narrow, it’s important to remember that eating disorders do not have a look. Listen to the person you love, believe them when they talk about their struggles and above all don’t dismiss or belittle their experience if it doesn’t fit a stereotypical image of what you think an eating disorder is. It can be helpful to do research from reputable sources like Beat and BodyWhys on what BED is and how it impacts a person.
It can be natural to want to help and “fix” things but offering solutions may feel like pressure to your loved one and it’s important to understand that their eating disorder has served as a coping mechanism and will require targeted support to move away from. Keep the onus on their feelings and what they would like in terms of support. Offer to be there along the way and let them know they don’t have to do anything alone.
Your role is not to recover for your loved one, it is to be there and offer unconditional support through their recovery. Below are some supportive phrases that will be helpful during recovery.
If you live in the Southern Health Trust Area you can contact the AMH everyBODY Team – T: 028 3839 2314 or E: [email protected]