How to Talk to Your Parents About Eating Disorders

Instigating a conversation with your parents about any sensitive subject can feel overwhelming. If you are struggling with an eating disorder or issues with food and your body image, it can be even more difficult to reach out to your parents for help and support.

Eating disorders often start in adolescence, so you’re certainly not alone in dealing with this issue at your age. [1] But you may still feel very isolated.

These statements and questions may enter your mind as you wonder how to tell your parents you have an eating disorder:

  • “Will they be angry with me?”
  • “I feel embarrassed sharing this with them.”
  • “Will they understand me?”
  • “Am I going to disappoint them?”

As a teenager, few things can be as powerful, strengthening, and helpful as your parents’ love. Eating disorders are complicated and can leave you in a trap of hopelessness and despair.

Living with an eating disorder makes it easy to believe that you are okay without help or that you can make it alone. The truth is that you will often need help and support from your parents to pull you away from the serious grip of your disorder. By confiding in them, you are taking an essential step toward pursuing recovery and receiving the care you need to get your life back.

Tips on How to Tell Your Family You Have an Eating Disorder

The thought of facing your parents about your eating disorder may leave you fearful or intimidated, but consider the alternative of remaining silent. Without the support of loved ones in your life, such as your parents, you risk the possibility of being destroyed by your eating disorder, whether it is anorexiabulimia, or binge eating disorder.

The bright and hopeful prospects of your future will remain undiscovered while you dwell in the shadows of an eating disorder, but in reaching out for help, you are taking back your life and your future.

How exactly can you talk to your parents about an eating disorder? Here are some helpful tips for communicating with your parents.

Arrange a Time and Place to Talk

Having their undivided attention in a comfortable setting will help you feel at ease when speaking with them. Choose a calm and quiet site where you can have a discussion without interruptions.

Family Meeting

Share Your Concerns and Needs

Be open and honest in communicating what you are feeling, what you may be worried about, or what you might need from them. Phrases that might be helpful to share with them include:

  • “I feel sad and scared about a health problem I am struggling with.”
  • “I have tried to overcome this on my own but feel that I need help.”
  • “I am struggling with an eating disorder and would like your support and guidance to find treatment and overcome this challenge. Will you please help me?”

Be Receptive to Their Response

Understand that your parents may react emotionally to what you share with them. For example, they may feel shocked, frightened, or confused by the openness of your struggle with an eating disorder, but know that you are not responsible for their emotional state.

Give yourself positive reinforcement by reminding yourself of the courage you have to take these essential steps toward getting well.

Battling an eating disorder can be a frightening thing, but there is no reason you need to do this alone. You are not to blame for this illness. Though it may not be easy for your parents to understand what you are going through, they will continue to love you and desire the best for you.

Helpful Treatment Options for Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are treatable. For example, researchers say 46% of people with anorexia make a full recovery, while 33% get better. [2] After you’ve determined how to tell your parents you are bulimic or anorexic, it’s time to consider treatment.

Treatment options can vary depending on the type of eating disorder you have.

Treatment for Bulimia

Medications like Prozac could be helpful for people with bulimia. [3] But medications alone can’t help you overcome all of the issues.

You’ll also need therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or family therapy. You can also work with dietitians to help you develop a healthy eating plan.

Treatment for Anorexia 

People with anorexia often need refeeding help, so they can regain the weight they lost. Eating a full meal could make you anxious, so therapists can work with you to help you understand why this is a helpful step for you.

There are no known medications to treat anorexia, but if you have an underlying issue such as depression, medications may help.

Treatment for Binge Eating Disorder 

A prescription medication called Vyvanse is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat moderate or severe binge eating disorders. [4] This medication could lessen the urge to binge, but you’ll also need therapists to help you combat future triggers and rebuild your life.

Get Help if You Can’t Talk to Family

What if the answer to “Should I tell my parents about my eating disorder?” is “no”? It’s important to note that parents may not be available to help in some cases. In this situation, consider reaching out to a trusted school counselor, teacher, professor, coach, or other adults who can support and help you get treatment.


  1. Eating Disorders: About More than Food. (2021). National Institute of Mental Health. Accessed September 2022.
  2. Statistics for Journalists. (n.d.). Beat Eating Disorders. Accessed September 2022.
  3. Treatment for Bulimia. (2020). NHS. Accessed September 2022.
  4. Guerdjikova AI, Mori N, Casuto LS, McElroy SL. (2016). Novel pharmacologic treatment in acute binge eating disorder – role of lisdexamfetamineNeuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment; 12:833-41.
Published Date on January 11, 2023 and Last Reviewed By Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC.
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