There’s more to eating disorders than an obsession with food, body weight, and body shape. Illnesses like anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder are potentially fatal illnesses that affect an individual’s physical and psychological well-being. They come with both mental and emotional challenges.
The National Institute of Mental Health says that eating disorders have a 2.7% lifetime prevalence which modestly increases with age. When left untreated, these illnesses could take a heavy toll on an individual’s physical health and mental well-being. It could also disrupt one’s everyday routine.
It’s important, therefore, to implement anorexia, binge eating, or bulimia recovery plan as soon as possible. The individual should also have a strong support system to help gain back control of their life in a healthier way.
Who makes up the support system of a person living with an eating disorder?
Unlike people who are living with anorexia, it could be tricky to spot individuals who are living with bulimia or binge eating disorder. People with either of these disorders can still fall within the normal weight range despite going to drastic measures to change their body shape and size.
But those in tune with a loved one might see these warning signs associated with an eating disorder:
- Having a negative body image or body dysmorphia
- Being obsessed with body shape and weight
- Developing tendencies for social isolation
- Persistent constipation or abdominal pain
- Experiencing fatigue or poor concentration
If you notice a loved one avoiding food or constantly going to the bathroom to induce vomiting when you dine together, brace yourself for a possibly tough conversation with them. People with an eating disorder might not feel comfortable discussing their condition with someone else, even if it’s family.
They might be nervous or scared to sign up for an eating disorder treatment plan. But with the encouragement of people who they’re closest to, they would feel better prepared to enter a program.
You, along with other family friends and the patient’s dietitian and therapist or psychiatrist, make up the support system needed to overcome the condition and the tendencies associated with it.
Your loved one will need you to create a safe, encouraging environment to help them reach full recovery.
How can the support system influence the person living with an eating disorder?
An eating disorder treatment program varies depending on the individual’s existing symptoms as well as their overall health and well-being. The appropriate treatment can range from partial hospitalization to intensive outpatient programs. There will also be ongoing recovery support from the individual’s primary therapist, dietitian, and psychiatrist. The recovery time will vary depending on each individual.
Take note, however, that long-term recovery doesn’t just depend on the treatment program and the professional team helping your loved one. As their support system, you also influence their recovery.
Your main role as the support system is to:
- Build an environment that promotes healthy change
- Encourage your loved one through their recovery treatment
- Remind them that they’re doing well with their recovery plan
- Help them deal with stress through healthy mediums like arts or exercise
- Commit to helping them live a healthier, more balanced life in the long run
Your loved one’s long-term recovery plan might also require family therapy, especially since the eating disorder could affect social relationships and communication. By actively participating in these therapy sessions, you will learn more about how to support your loved one’s journey.
Additionally, your genuine involvement with the ED recovery plan wouldn’t go unnoticed by your loved one. This could encourage them to stick with their treatment program and recover as soon as they can.
How can you support an individual who’s recovering from an eating disorder?
Support systems play an equally important role as the actual treatment plan on an individual’s recovery. As the patient’s support system, you’re mainly in charge of supporting their mental health and emotional well-being. These are what else you can do to contribute to a swift and full recovery:
- Making encouraging statements and cheering for the person with an ED
- Checking up on your loved one’s mental and emotional well-being
- Limiting your talk about food, weight, and body image
- Encouraging healthy lifestyle changes like exercise
- Preparing nourishing meals for your loved one
People with an eating disorder might lose the support of peers throughout their recovery journey. That being said, support them from the start of their journey up until the dust settles.
Eating disorders don’t just have harmful effects on a person’s health and well-being. They also affect relationships with family and friends. Support them on their recovery for better qualify of life for all.