Anxiety, Eating Disorders and Family Support, How to Help

Supporting a family member with anxiety

Anxiety is no stranger to those who struggle with eating disorders. In fact, eating disorder sufferers are more likely to also have a mood disorder related to anxiety, such as social anxiety, general anxiety disorder, or phobias. Anxiety is often experienced as it relates to many different aspects of living.

For someone who has an eating disorder, things may appear to be okay on the surface, but underneath, there may be an internal struggle with anxiety. If you have a family member struggling with both anxiety and an eating disorder, it may be difficult to know how to help.

Circumstances that May Trigger Anxiety

For someone dealing with an eating disorder, anxiety is often part of the struggle. Anxiety may be experienced around a variety of issues, including eating, attending social events, being in public, trying on clothes or even getting dressed, exercising or not exercising, changes in weight, and other such issues.

As a family member who may be observing things on the outside, it may be difficult to relate to this struggle. Common everyday scenarios that might strike anxiety in a family member with an eating disorder can be hard to comprehend.

Sudden changes or transitions can also provoke and/or trigger anxiety in a family member with an eating disorder. This is also something to be aware of when learning how to support a family member with an eating disorder.

While you might not be able to fully understand what your loved one is experiencing with anxiety, you can help by trying to understand the situations that trigger anxious feelings, as well as learn to help support them through these types of scenarios.

Supporting a Family Member

Supporting a family memberIdeally, your family member should have professional support to help manage anxiety while recovering from their eating disorder. Your role as a family member should be supportive, as you cannot be expected to “treat” anything. Having open communication with your loved one about your involvement in their recovery can also be helpful.

Sitting in family sessions together can give you insight into what they are facing as well as coping techniques they may be learning to manage anxiety they are facing. You can in turn then remind them of these skills or help encourage them to utilize appropriate coping mechanisms when facing anxiety for any reason.

As family members, we can support our loved ones through the various trials they may be facing!

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

What are ways that you have helped support a loved one through anxiety and an eating disorder?


Crystal Headshot 2About the Author: Crystal is a Masters-level Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) with a specialty focus in eating disorders, maternal/child health and wellness, and intuitive eating. Combining clinical experience with a love of social media and writing, Crystal serves as the Director of Content and Social Media for Eating Disorder Hope/Addiction Hope, where her passion to help others find recovery and healing is integrated into each part of her work.

As a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, Crystal has dedicated her career to helping others establish a healthy relationship with food and body through her work with EDH/AH and nutrition private practice.


The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on December 9, 2016
Published on EatingDisorderHope.com