Fathers, Sons, and Eating Disorders

Contributor: Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC for Eating Disorder Hope

sunset-520812_640If you are the parent of a son who has an eating disorder, you have likely experienced a myriad of emotions and questions through the process. Eating disorders in males are continually being understood, thanks to advocacy, awareness, and research, but the many stereotypes that surround these psychiatric illnesses can be painful and confusing.

With the typical eating disorder suffer being depicted as a young, adolescent female, you may not understand how it is that your son came to develop an eating disorder. Misunderstandings about these diseases can lead to many doubts, questions, and even self-blame.

However, in order to move forward as a family and to encourage treatment, it is important to understand the basics of the disorder to be empowered to help your son.

An Eating Disorder Is Trying for Anyone

Whether your son is a young child, adolescent, or adult, seeing your loved one suffer through such a complicated disease is a trying process. The many questions that are flooding your mind can be overwhelming.

Perhaps you are wondering,

  • “How did my son develop this disorder”
  • “What might I have done that contributed to this”
  • “How could I have prevented this”
  • “How will we get through this?”

While all of these questions are valid concerns, it is important to keep these points in mind as you navigate through this journey with your son:

You Are Not at Fault

hand-66631_640It is crucial to identify any self-blame you may be feeling and to understand that this will not help support yourself or your son through the recovery process. As a parent, you may assume responsibility for anything your child has suffered through.

However, eating disorders are complex diseases that cannot be attributed to any one cause. While environmental factors can contribute to the development of an eating disorder, there are genetic and neurobiological influences that pre-determine a person’s susceptibility.

The Biological Factors of Eating Disorders

No matter how you have raised your child, these biological factors will strongly influence an eating disorder. This aspect of an eating disorder is helpful to understand as it relieves some of the responsibility you may feel.

Rather than focusing on what you could have done differently or blaming yourself for the eating disorder, it is crucial to know that there are many aspects of the disease that are completely out of control.

As a Parent, You Will Need Support Too

Throughout the process of the eating disorder journey, you will experience many ups and downs. Some days, you may feel hopeful as you see your son making strides in his recovery process.

Other days, you may feel discouraged, anxious, or even depressed as a result of seeing your son struggle through his eating disorder. Because of the many different things you will go through as a parent, it is important that you have support throughout this process.

Joining Support Groups

Consider joining a support group for family or friends of loved ones who have eating disorders. Being able to have a discussion with other parents who have been through a similar situation can help you process what you are going through.

You may even consider the option of personal therapy/counseling for yourself as well. Expressing the emotions and thoughts you are having will be a helpful part of your healing through this difficult process.

Be Involved in the Treatment Process

chrysomela-varians-55541_640Though you may still not fully understand how to support your son through his recovery journey, he will need you in his life all the same. You may be confused about your role in his life or how you can best support him.

Do not let these doubts discourage you from becoming an active part of the recovery process. Collaborate with your son’s treatment team and stay updated with the recovery progressions. Be sure to inquire about family-based therapy treatment and meal support.

The professionals who are involved in your son’s treatment and therapy can be your greatest assets for learning how to support your son through his recovery. The more you are involved in his treatment process, the better equipped you will be to help him in his journey.

Empowerment for Supporting Your Son

Watching your son struggle with an eating disorder, whether it is anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating disorder, can be a painful and isolating struggle. By refraining from self-blame, finding your own support, and becoming involved in the treatment process, you can be empowered to help your son overcome this struggle.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

If you have a son who has suffered with an eating disorder, what advice or encouragement would you offer to parents in a similar situation?

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on December 31st, 2014
Published on EatingDisorderHope.com