Talking With Your Family About Your Eating Disorder
Acknowledging that you have an eating disorder may be the hardest step to recovery. Talking to your family about your eating disorder may be the next most difficult step, and yet it is an essential one. Support from loved ones is essential to your recovery, but seeking that support may be frightening or even humiliating.
Once you have acknowledged your eating disorder, it’s time to seek support from those who love you and know you best. This isn’t easy, but with these steps, the process may be less stressful.
- First seek support from your therapist. In many cases, it is best for those struggling with an eating disorder to first seek support from a professional therapist. First talking about an eating disorder can be scary; having an objective ear to listen and guide you through the first steps of recovery is critical. Your therapist will also be able to help you set boundaries and parameters for the impending conversation with your family and loved ones.
- Identify who should know. Sometimes, eating disorders may be partly attributed to family dysfunction or stress. Telling your family about your eating disorder should not create more triggers for unhealthy eating patterns. You may need to carefully select which loved ones and family members to share your struggles with. Identify those individuals you trust most, and who are not a contributing factor to your eating disorder.
- Have an external support group in place. Before talking with your family about your eating disorder, it’s important that you are surrounded by a support group of people who will encourage you in your recovery, and who be able to keep your recovery going, even if the conversation with your family does not go well. Sharing your eating disorder with your family should be a step toward recovery, not a step backward. Having a support group in place is a sort of “insurance” you can have to fall back on should your family not react the way you hope they will.
- Consider the best way to approach your family. A face-to-face conversation may not be ideal. Many eating disorder patients have found it most successful to first approach the topic of conversation with their family through a letter or email. Writing a letter will allow you to share all of your thoughts without interruption or distraction. A letter will also give family time to digest the news before they have a face-to-face conversation with you. Before talking to your family in person, write out your thoughts in notes to guide you through the conversation.
- Determine where and when to tell your family. Not any time or place may be appropriate for this sensitive conversation. Pick a time when there will be fewest distractions and interruptions. Select a place where you feel most safe. In many cases, this may be in the privacy of your home, but in some circumstances, a walk to a park may be more beneficial. Noisy restaurants and cars are two places this conversation should not take place.
Eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and compulsive or emotional eating can come with serious health complications. Sharing your struggles with those who love you is just one step toward recovery. If you or someone you love suffers from an eating disorder, seek professional help.
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