Eating Disorders

Coping with an eating disorder isn’t easy. But if you or a family member or friend is struggling, there is help. NAMI and NAMI Affiliates are there to provide you with support for you and your family and information about community resources.

Contact the NAMI HelpLine at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) or info@nami.org if you have any questions about finding support and resources.

Helping Yourself

Although you may realize that your behaviors are destructive it may be difficult to control them. Treatment can teach you ways to cope. Here are some examples:

Lifestyle. It’s important to begin making changes in your life and remove the reminders and stop negative behaviors associated with the disorder. Resist the impulse to check yourself in the mirror frequently or weight your several times a day. Fight the urge to diet or skip meals.

Steer Clear of troublesome reminders. Identify the triggers–a certain place, challenging situations, some friends-for old behaviors or symptoms and prepare a plan to deal with them.

Accept yourself. Your healthy weight is your ideal weight. Don’t be tricked by ultra-thin models and actresses. Look for healthy role models. Focus on activities and interests that make you feel good about yourself.

Partner with your health care providers. Develop trust and communicate openly. Give your healthcare provider the information he or she needs to help you recover. Don’t skip therapy sessions, and be consistent with meal plans. Ask about vitamin and mineral supplements and which type of exercise, if any, is appropriate for strengthening and rebuilding your body.

Complementary therapies. Alternative and complementary therapies and medicines can have negative or positives effects. Always discuss with your health care providers anything you would like to add to your treatment plan. Weight loss supplements, diuretics, laxatives or herbal remedies are commonly unregulated, and often misused. Other treatments generally considered safe and helpful, including acupuncture, massage, yoga, chamomile tea and biofeedback.

Learn all you can. Read self-help books that offer practical, credible advice. Research helpful topics online, but don’t visit websites that promote dangerous eating habits or showcase very thin, unhealthy bodies, as it could trigger a relapse. For men with eating disorders, check out the National Association for Males with Eating Disorders (N.A.M.E.D.).

Find emotional support from others recovering from an eating disorder. Share your thoughts, fears and questions with other people who have dealt with an eating disorder. Connect with others on online message boards or peer-support groups like NAMI Connection Recovery Support Groups.

If you live with a mental health condition, learn more about managing your mental health and finding the support you need.

Supporting Your Family Member or Friend

Discuss your concerns. If you have concerns about a friend or family member and suspect an eating disorder may be the reason, learn about the different disorders, symptoms and warning signs. When you are knowledgeable, talking with him or her in a loving and non-confrontational way about your concerns is best. Tell the person you care.

Suggest they see a doctor, counselor or other health professional. This may be tricky, as your loved one may not want to admit or even realize there is a problem, but sometimes seeing a professional who is knowledgeable about eating disorders is the first step in recovery.

Avoid the traps. Conflicts and battles are hurtful. If a person is not ready to acknowledge a problem, you can be a supportive friend. Avoid placing blame, guilt or shame on them about behaviors or attitudes related to the eating disorder. Remember that giving simple solutions minimizes the courage and strength a person needs to recover from an eating disorder.

Be a good role model. Reflect on your attitudes and actions. Do you maintain sensible eating and exercise habits? Also, focus on the other person’s successes, accomplishments or personality.

Parenting. Having a child with an eating disorder places significant responsibility on parents, making them active partners in treatment planning and implementation. Your family needs to feel comfortable and confident in the professional’s approach and abilities, and in discussing the disorder. Finding a mental health professional with experience treating young people or children with eating disorders and their families is important.

Find emotional support. Family support groups provide people with a chance to share thoughts, fears and questions with other people who are in similar situations and understand. NAMI Basics, and NAMI Family-to-Family programs are offered in many communities by NAMI Affiliates.