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Contributor: Dr. Michael Pertschuk
An adult concerned about someone with an eating disorder can call on insurance and a community mental health system. All this can seem daunting for a 15 year old worried about a family member. If the family member who the teen thinks might be struggling is a sibling, usually the best place to start is a parent.
Sometimes a brother or sister may actually have a lot better idea of what is going on than a parent. It may feel like “tattling” but treating an eating disorder with silence is about the worst course of action.
Overcoming Family Dynamics in Order to Help a Family Member
Usually, a parent will act to get help for a child if informed, but denial can be a potent force so occasionally the teen’s words may go unheeded. In that case an alternative is the counselor or nurse at school.
These professionals will listen and sometimes a call from an “authority” like a nurse or counselor will grab parental attention. If it doesn’t, a follow up with the school health team will enlist their help in taking it up “the chain of command” to force at least an initial evaluation.
When It’s the Parent Who Is Struggling
If the teen is concerned about a parent, this can be especially intimidating. Kids have no direct control or leverage in this situation. Sometimes reaching out to extended family can help. Is there a grandparent, aunt or uncle who will listen and who the affected parent might listen to?
Failing that, the school nurse or counselor again can be a resource. They have a responsibility for the teen’s safety and if the parent’s eating disorder is impairing the parent’s ability to function they have grounds to intervene.
Resources Available for Teens
It is easy for a teen to feel overwhelmed when trying to help a family member, but there are available resources. Many larger communities have chapters of self-help groups like NEDA, AABA, ANAD. They typically have regularly scheduled meetings open to anyone.
If there is an eating disorder treatment program in the area such programs often offer open meetings for concerned individuals. A Google search for eating disorders self-help will provide an array of websites with the potential for email communication and often a “hotline” with a live person on the other end of the phone.
With the resources out there no teen has to feel alone trying to help someone they care about.
Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!
What is your experience with a teen reaching out for help for an adult’s eating disorder? What sources have you utilized for support?
Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on November 18th, 2014
Published on EatingDisorderHope.com