If you have a friend or loved one with an Eating Disorder, there are several that you can do to help support them in their recovery journey.
The very first thing to remember is that the person may be feeling very guilty or ashamed of their behaviours and may have difficulty in discussing their illness with you. Therefore, it is really important that you are aware of how challenging this is and acknowledge their bravery in confiding in you. It is also critical that you do not judge anything they tell you. If you can try and listen to them with empathy and not judge them, that will be an enormous thing for you to do and will go a long way in helping your friend or loved one to feel more secure and understood.
You can also make sure that they stay engaged in the treatment process with their doctor/s, therapist and dietician. They may have days when they are sick and tired of the process and want to quit treatment, especially when things are tough, but encouraging them to keep their appointments and keep the end result in sight will help them. Recovery is extremely difficult and rarely achieved without treatment and support. Recovery time averages between 5-7 years, which indicates the severity and complexity of these illnesses. Another thing to remember is that some Eating Disorder behaviours can be very difficult to live with. If you cohabitate with a child, or friend who is suffering from an Eating Disorder illness, it is OK to be tough on the Eating Disorder behaviours while being kind and soft on the person. Keep in mind that this is a mental illness and the sufferer has very limited capacity to control the behaviours. If you berate them for the behaviours, they will simply feel worse than ever. However you can gently but firmly work with them to develop a plan that will satisfy everyone’s needs.
It is important that if you believe you or someone you know has an eating disorder to seek professional assistance immediately. It can be scary to make this first step, however the earlier help is sought the quicker the road to recovery. If you require a referral to a general practitioner or other health practitioner practicing in the eating disorder field, contact The Butterfly Foundation for a list of names and numbers. The Butterfly Foundation offers telephone and email support for those with eating disorders and their family and friends. This confidential and supportive counselling service is available on 1800 ED HOPE (1800 33 4673) or at firstname.lastname@example.org.