Sharing Your Eating Disorder with Mom and Dad

Mother and daughter hugging and working on Eating Disorders in Mothers and Daughters and pursuing treatment for anorexia

Parents love to love their children so hard, and there are times when it is absolutely needed, like when you’re struggling with an eating disorder. Sharing your eating disorder with your parents can be essential in your recovery.

Research shows that the quality of a parent-child relationship is an indicator of successfulness in recovery and that, ultimately, parental involvement in treatment and recovery is helpful [1]

Telling your parents about your eating disorder might be difficult, but it will give them the opportunity to provide the help that you may need.

Sharing Your Eating Disorder

Don’t Hide

Eating disorders are secret by their very nature. So, talking about your experience with anyone might be uncomfortable.

You might wonder how much to tell, and what details to divulge, or if you should even go into detail. This could especially be true as you tell your parents about your eating disorder and not wanting them to freak out or get angry.

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The reality is, no matter how they react, you have to speak your truth about your struggle. Sharing your eating disorder is not only to get the support that you need but to talk about your pain and be heard.

Don’t hold back in opening up about exactly what you’re going through and what you feel you need from them to support you in recovery.

Be Patient (But Not Too Patient)

Few people are educated in the specifics of the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors related to eating disorders. Because of this, there is a chance your parents might be confused, not understand, or even say the wrong thing.

The hope is that they will grow to learn how to support you in recovery. But, in the beginning, it may be a daunting situation for them. They so desperately want to be there for you and say the right thing.

Daughter Sharing Your Eating Disorder with Mother

Unfortunately, they may not know how or what to say.

When sharing your eating disorder, you need to be understanding in these moments and remember that they are learning, just as you are.

The caveat to this is not to be too patient. What is meant by this is, if your parents’ talk or behavior feels less like confusion or worry and more like negativity, it’s okay for you to say that you aren’t comfortable and walk away from the conversation.

The sad truth is that, for some sufferers, their Mom or Dad may not be able to understand their eating disorder. Therefore, telling them may not be a positive experience or provide the comfort for which you’re rightfully asking.

If this is the case, take care of yourself by stepping away and calling a trusted person to process.

Let Them Know What You Need

At the moment of sharing your eating disorder, your parents will likely want to spring into action. If that’s what you wanted, that’s wonderful.

However, to begin with, you may just want quiet support from your parents before they jump into “fix-it” mode. In this conversation, don’t assume your parents will know what you need. You have to tell them.

Portrait of a loving mother and her young teen sonAt that moment, you have the right to say what kind of support you feel you need.

The truth is, you can do all of these things and still have a bumpy experience telling your parents about your eating disorder.

They might not understand, and they might initially say the wrong thing. But, one thing is for sure, they won’t stop loving you.

They are not perfect, but they are learning about this disorder with you so that they can help you fight.


[1] McVey, G. L. et al. (2002). Risk and protective factors associated with disordered eating in early adolescence. Journal of Early Adolescence, 22:1.

About Our Sponsor

Reasons BannerReasons Eating Disorder Center is an innovative program founded on the belief that healing is a fundamental aspect of eating disorder treatment. We believe that eating disorders are rooted in and driven by anxiety and profound disruptions to the sufferers’ sense of self. We offer our patients hope rooted in the belief that they are capable of living an authentic life of meaning and connectedness. Our goal is to create a culture that nurtures the integration of body and mind through the daily practice and continual reinforcing of the balancing ideas of Doing and Being.

About the Author:

Image of Margot Rittenhouse.

Margot Rittenhouse, MS, PLPC, NCC is a therapist who is passionate about providing mental health support to all in need and has worked with clients with substance abuse issues, eating disorders, domestic violence victims, and offenders, and severely mentally ill youth.

As a freelance writer for Eating Disorder Hope and Addiction Hope and a mentor with MentorConnect, Margot is a passionate eating disorder advocate, committed to de-stigmatizing these illnesses while showing support for those struggling through mentoring, writing, and volunteering. Margot has a Master’s of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Johns Hopkins University.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective on eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer a 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.

Published September 19, 2019, on
Reviewed & Approved on September 19, 2019, by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC

About Baxter Ekern

Baxter is the Vice President of Ekern Enterprises, Inc. He is responsible for the operations of Eating Disorder Hope and ensuring that the website is functioning smoothly.