How do I Tell My Parents That I Have An Eating Disorder?

Article contributed by Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC and Crystal Karges, MS, RDN

Instigating a conversation with your parents about any sensitive subject can feel overwhelming.   If you are suffering 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.  “Will they be angry with me?”, “I feel embarrassed sharing this with them”, “Will they understand me?”, and “Am I going to disappoint them?” These may be some of the thoughts you are battling with as you decide whether or not you can confide in your parents about your struggle.

As a teenager, there can be nothing as powerful, strengthening, and helpful as the love of your parents.  Eating disorders are complicated diseases that can leave you stuck in a trap of hopelessness and despair.  When you are living in an eating disorder, it is easy to believe that you are okay without help or that you can make it alone.  The reality is much darker though, and the truth of the matter is that you will need the help and support from your parents to pull you away from the death grip of your disorder.  By confiding in them, you are taking the most essential step towards pursuing recovery and receiving the care you need to get your life back.

The thought of facing your parents about your eating disorder may leave you feeling fearful or intimidated, but consider the alternative of remaining silent.  Without the support of loved ones in your life, such as your parents, you are risking the possibility of being destroyed by your eating disorder, whether it is anorexia, bulimia, 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 place that is calm and quiet and where you can have a discussion without interruptions.
  • 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”, or “I have tried to overcome this on my own but feel that I need help”, or even “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 of their response:  Understand that your parents may have an emotional response to what you share with them.  They may feel shocked, frightened, or confused by your 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 important steps towards getting well.

Battling an eating disorder is a frightening thing, but there is no reason you need to do this alone.  You are not to blame for this illness, and 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.  Recovering from an eating disorder is not an easy task, but the unconditional love and support you have from your parents will empower you to overcome this illness.  An eating disorder would seek to take your life from you, and while it may be hard to love yourself during this difficult time, by asking your parents for what you need, you can loosen the stronghold of even the most powerful eating disorder.

Please note that parents may not be available to help in some cases.  In this situation, please consider reaching out to a trusted school counselor, teacher, professor, coach or other adult who can offer support and help in finding treatment.


Published Date: March 14, 2013
Last Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on March 14, 2013
Page last updated: March 14, 2013
Published on, Information on Eating Disorders