Eating Disorders
(Including Anorexia and Bulimia)

Tips for Friends and Family of Someone with an Eating Disorder

Jane Framingham, Ph.D.
17-Feb-2005

In the Eating Disorders Series:

Accept that there are no quick easy solutions for recovery from an eating disorder. Therapists, physicians and other experts have no magic cure. If your loved one is to get lasting recovery, she needs to make changes in her attitude and behaviors. These changes take time. You cannot make them for her. However, you and family and friends need to make changes to accommodate her growth. Work with your loved one and his/her therapist to find out what these changes involve. Intervention may be one of the most difficult things you do within the course of a relationship. Do not expect that your loved one will be open, cooperative nor grateful to your intervention. Gratitude sometimes comes later.

Once your loved one or friend is in therapy, avoid getting into discussions or arguments about weight and food. If you become concerned about weight loss, dehydration or other signs of medical jeopardy, call the therapist, MD or both.

Verbally and physically express love and affection for her. Do NOT tie your caring to sermons about eating or demands for weight gain. Admit that at times you feel angry and frustrated, helpless, powerless and enraged. Let her see that having these feelings does not take away from your love for her

Develop ways of sharing and socializing that do not involve food.

Practice good sense. Do not diet. It is very difficult to help the person with the eating disorder to develop healthy attitudes about weight loss and thinness when others around are reinforcing the importance of weight loss.

Avoid power struggles

Recognize that individuals with eating disorders are usually quite ambivalent about getting well. At times they may want recovery, and other times they may want to retreat into the safety and security of their rituals.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 26 May 2013
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