Knowing how to tell your family about your eating disorder can be daunting. Often you may be unsure of how they will react, or even how you will react or respond.
Each family is different, but there are ways that you can talk to your family and explain your struggles to them.
The first step in discussing your eating disorder with the family is to decide with whom you feel most comfortable talking. Maybe your mom, or dad or sibling or everyone all together.
It can help to have some information about your eating disorder on hand to help explain what you are experiencing.
Websites such as EatingDisorderHope.com, or the National Association of Eating Disorders, and Mirror-Mirror all have useful information about what an eating disorder is .
There is no right or wrong way to discuss this with your family. It is what feels most comfortable for you.
It can help to have an idea of what you want to say, such as, how your eating disorder started, what maintains it (if you are aware), and how you are feeling.
It could be helpful for your family to know how the eating disorder is impacting you as well as what you would like them to help you seek recovery.
For many individuals, it can help to have an ‘appointment’ to set aside time to talk with your family member(s) about what is going on with you.
It can be a quiet space in your home or a public place. Often the best place is where there are little distractions to interrupt you.
Family members will have a range of reactions to your news. They may be angry at first, alarmed, or shocked. They may be happy that you shared your eating disorder with them but may feel they need to take control, or even dismiss it at first.
Some family members may need some time away to process what you have told them as well. No matter how your family responds, it is not your fault, but rather their reaction to what they are perceiving.
It is important to remember that it is important you share your thoughts and feelings with your family regardless of how they react. Even if they do not respond how you would like them too, remember that you deserve support for your eating disorder.
Know Your Fears
It is essential to identify what your fears are of discussing your eating disorder with family members. Going over the “What Ifs” can help you know from where your anxiety might be stemming.
Identify what you would like to talk about with your family regarding your eating disorder. Are you seeking help for your eating disorder and need their support, or do you want to educate them on your treatment, and what you need from them to continue treatment and recovery?
These topics can be anxiety-provoking, but it is crucial to address these fears as keeping it secret can continue to give power to the eating disorder. Being able to open up and be honest about what is going on with you is an essential step in your treatment process.
Support System Needs
Knowing how you would like your family to support you is also an important step . You may need guidance on what level of care to enter or the type of counseling. It could also be attending family group therapy or meals support.
Remember that you have the power to allow them to support you, and it can be challenging to take the lead in treatment, but it is an integral part of you taking back your genuine self.
Some family members can be supportive by just being in your life and listening during tough days. Others may be your cheerleaders during times of struggle, and some may be a safe place for you just to be yourself.
Being a support person does not necessarily mean that they are an active part of your recovery, but are different levels. You set the boundaries of who is engaged in your recovery and who is not.
Family May Not Support
It is good to be prepared for some family members who do not want to support you in your recovery. It is okay that they do not feel comfortable, able, or willing to help.
It is within your right as a human to ask someone to moderate or adapt their behaviors when they are around you, even if they are not supportive. This can be changing the way they talk about their own body, shape, size, and weight as well as food or diet talk.
Questions of Your Own
Questions to consider asking your family after sharing your struggle are:
- How they are feeling about the news you have shared with them?
- Do they want further information about your type of eating disorder?
- Would they like website resources or further information?
- Do your loved ones have questions for you?
You can offer to direct them to educational websites or invite them to an educational therapy session with you to learn more. If they agree to this option, remember to have a time set aside to meet again to discuss.
Regardless of how you tell them to remember to practice your personal self-care after your discussion. It may be an emotional talk, and you will need healthy coping mechanisms, and possibly a follow-up session with your therapist to process.
About the Author: Libby Lyons is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Certified Eating Disorder Specialist (CEDS). Libby has been practicing in the field of eating disorders, addictions, depression, anxiety and other comorbid issues in various agencies. Libby has previously worked as a contractor for the United States Air Force Domestic Violence Program, Saint Louis University Student Health and Counseling, Saint Louis Behavioral Medicine Institute Eating Disorders Program, and has been in Private Practice.
Libby currently works as a counselor at Fontbonne University and is a Adjunct Professor at Saint Louis University, and is a contributing author for Addiction Hope and Eating Disorder Hope. Libby lives in the St. Louis area with her husband and two daughters. She enjoys spending time with her family, running, and watching movies.
References: How to Tell Someone You Have an Eating Disorder. (n.d.). Retrieved December 19, 2017, from https://www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk/recovery-information/tell-someone
 B. (2014). Telling Someone You Have Bulimia . Retrieved December 19, 2017, from http://www.bulimiahelp.org/sites/default/files/telling_someone_you_have_bulimia.pdf
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.
Published on February 7, 2018.
Published on EatingDisorderHope.com