Contributor: Courtney Howard, BA, writer for Eating Disorder Hope
If a loved one is struggling with an eating disorder, you might feel as though you are stumbling around in the dark. This is natural, as no one is prepared for the harsh realities that come with an eating disorder diagnosis. You are likely spending your days worrying about his or her mental and physical health while trying to find the best treatment and specialists available.
Do not forget to take care of your own needs while caring for your loved one. Even after a family member or friend is well into recovery, you might find yourself coping with related anxiety or stress. You are not alone.
Families with loved ones in recovery from eating disorders can often benefit from a network of support. Just as those with eating disorders benefit from support groups, families find solace in expressing their feelings and learning ways to cope with issues that arise during a loved one’s battle. Having a safe space in which to speak and learn while processing their own emotions can be a form of self-care for family members, while arming themselves with tools to help their loved ones in recovery.
Support Groups for Families
National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA)
The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) has a program called the Parent, Family & Friends Network (PFN). Under this umbrella is a variety of services geared toward loved ones of those in recovery, including an offshoot called NEDA Navigators. This connects family members and loved ones with a trained volunteer who has extensive knowledge in the area of eating disorders and recovery. PFN also has a magazine and free webinar series, in addition to support groups for those who have lost a loved one to an eating disorder.
National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD)
The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD) provides support groups and educational materials for families and friends of those with eating disorders. These resources can be extremely helpful for individuals unfamiliar with treatment and how to best support someone struggling. Though ANAD meetings are typically intended for those in recovery themselves, these sessions might bring you closer to understanding what your loved one is going through.
Families Empowered and Supporting Treatment of Eating Disorders (F.E.A.S.T.)
Families Empowered and Supporting Treatment of Eating Disorders (F.E.A.S.T.) is another network geared toward parents and siblings of individuals with eating disorders. F.E.A.S.T.’s founding principles include, “Parents do not cause eating disorders, and patients do not choose eating disorders,” and, “Siblings and parents are affected by a family member’s illness; their needs deserve full attention, too.”
Some parents fear that they might have caused their child’s eating disorder, or contributed to it in some way. The reality is that eating disorders are complex mental health issues that develop to cope with a multitude of issues, and cannot be “caused” by anyone. They are nobody’s “fault.” F.E.A.S.T. provides a safe space for loved ones to express their concerns without judgment or blame. Membership is free and includes both online and in-person support groups and resources.
Learn More about ED Recovery
If your loved one is currently in treatment, his or her program might provide family groups or an intensive family weekend to include loved ones in the recovery process. These groups can be highly emotionally-charged, as they include the individual in treatment and are typically mediated by a psychotherapist. This can be beneficial in understanding family dynamics and the ways in which loved ones can reduce triggers. Though very different in nature than support groups solely for family members, both types can be cathartic and educational.
Aside from meetings, families and friends aiming to learn more about eating disorders and recovery can benefit from books and online articles on the subject, such as those provided by F.E.A.S.T. and NEDA support groups. Gleaning information from these sources, including F.E.A.S.T.’s simple glossary of eating disorder-related terms, can provide a greater understanding of what your loved one is going through and how to best play your role in his or her recovery.
If you are seeking an outlet in which to express your feelings regarding a loved one’s eating disorder diagnosis or treatment, there are many options available to you. Research local chapters of these support groups and explore online resources. Knowledge is power, and finding support for yourself enables you to provide a better support system for your loved one in recovery.
Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!
What groups have you and your family attended for support in your or your loved ones recovery from an eating disorder?
About the Author: Courtney Howard is a Certified Life Coach specializing in eating disorders through Lionheart Eating Disorder Recovery Coaching. As a content writer at The Sovereign Health Group while writing freelance through Eating Disorder Hope, Courtney is a passionate advocate for recovery and works to fight the stigma surrounding all mental health disorders. She graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) from San Diego State University, holds a paralegal certificate in Family Law, and is a Certified Domestic Violence Advocate.
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 21, 2015
Published on EatingDisorderHope.com