Where Can a Teen Look for Eating Disorder Help for a Family Member

Watching a parent or family member struggle with an eating disorder can cause a tremendous amount of strain and anxiety and can lead to feelings of resentment, anger, fear, helplessness, and guilt.

Having a parent with an eating disorder can be especially difficult, as children in these cases are often called to step up to the enormous responsibilities that come with convincing someone to pursue treatment, and seeing them through their recovery journey. But if you’re trying to help a parent or family member with an eating disorder, it’s important to know you’re not alone.

Eating disorder websites and hotlines, financial aid programs or other types of social assistance, and additional counseling or treatment may all be available and helpful during this challenging time. You may also be able to find help from trusted family friends, school counselors, church leaders or programs, and community health centers.

Finding Help for a Family Member with an Eating Disorder

Finding help for a parent with an eating disorder can entail some extra steps for a child.

It may be more difficult for children to convince their parent—or another adult—that something is wrong or that help is needed. And if a parent does decide to seek out treatment, the process can be costly or involve complex conversations about health insurance, which a teen may not be legally able to participate in, and even an adult child may find challenging.

But there may be some options for children of parents with eating disorders, or those looking to help other family members find recovery from these conditions.


Eating Disorder Hotlines

Eating disorder hotlines are great ways to access information about treatment, education, and other resources. These services are nearly always free and often allow callers to remain anonymous.

Some helpful eating disorder hotlines include:

  • National Eating Disorder Association Helpline (NEDA): 1-800-931-2237
  • Hopeline Network: 1-800-442-4673 or 998
  • National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders: 1-630-577-1330
  • Overeaters Anonymous: 1-505-891-2664
  • Multi-Service Eating Disorder Association: 1-617-558-1881
  • The United Way’s 211: 211
  • Crisis Textline: 741741

Eating Disorder Websites

There are plenty of eating disorder websites that offer useful information and education about coping strategies and ways of accessing treatment.

These websites have advice both for people struggling with eating disorders, and the family members or loved ones of people struggling with eating disorders:

Eating Disorder Counseling & Treatment

When a person struggling with an eating disorder is ready to seek treatment, there are a lot of different options available. Treatment can be accessed through hospitals, clinics, community centers, and even online. Many of these resources will offer a variety of treatments such as counseling, group therapy, and medical treatment.

If you want to start looking at treatment options, but don’t know where to start, NEDA has a handy mapping tool that can show you treatment centers in your area as well as virtual treatment options. For those who feel more comfortable partaking in virtual counseling sessions, Within Health offers eating disorder counseling with a free consultation.

And don’t forget to keep insurance options in mind. If you’re younger and unsure about insurance options, you may have to ask your parent for more help or guidance. But ensuring a treatment center will accept your insurance is crucial before enrolling your loved one in the program, otherwise you could be looking at large, unexpected bills or have to deal with moving them to a different program later on.

Community Members and Groups

Aside from eating disorder experts and trained volunteers, there may be a number of people or programs within your community that can help, including:

  • Guidance counselors or teachers
  • Your primary care physician
  • Coaches
  • Church leaders or religious programs
  • Community health programs
  • Trusted family friends

Sharing this information with an adult who you trust and feel safe around can help ease the burden of the stressful situation. They should be able to aid with some of the more burdensome responsibilities around finding help or convincing your parent or family member they should seek help, or otherwise be there for support.

How to Talk to Your Family Member About Their Eating Disorder

Talking to a family member about their eating disorder can be hard.

The topic is usually a very sensitive one, so it’s important to approach the conversation in an open-minded, empathetic and supportive way. And try to remember that, no matter how they react, in the long run, your loved one will likely be glad to have your support.

Here are some tips for having a heartfelt and meaningful conversation. (1)

Find an Appropriate Time and Place

It’s important to approach this conversation in a safe and comfortable environment. Try to find a time and place where you can have quiet and privacy, or else the person may feel ambushed or uncomfortable and lash out at you or shut down.

This is also why it’s a good idea to choose a time when your loved one is not distracted or stressed. This gives you the best chance possible to have an open and honest conversation.

Express Genuine Concern and Support

In the least judgmental way possible, let your family member know that you are there to support them and that you are concerned about their health.

Try your best not to make accusations or place blame, as this can make them defensive or cause them to shut down during the conversation.

Practice Active Listening

Give your family member the floor to talk about their condition freely and listen actively without interrupting. This can not only help them express things they may have been holding in, but help you understand more about what they’re going through.

For example, they may feel responsible for causing you pain or making things difficult, in ways they haven’t been able to previously express.

Letting them know that they’re heard can help encourage an overall more open and honest dialogue, which is also important for recovery.

Offer to Help Them Seek Professional Treatment

Offer to help your loved one seek counseling or medical attention for their eating disorder. This can help them understand how deeply you care about them and are willing to help them find the treatment they need.

Help them come up with a plan for moving forward and reassure them that you will be there every step of the way.

Avoid Oversimplifying Their Condition

It may feel tempting or even natural to plead with your family member to “Just stop” or “Just eat.” But as honest as these may feel to you, they’re ultimately unhelpful for your loved one to hear.

Try to remember that they’re battling a condition that is beyond their control. Hearing you say this might make them feel upset or angry, leading them to shut you down in future conversations.

In the end, the best thing you can do for your loved one is to remain understanding and offer them the love and support they need to beat their eating disorder and recover.

Call Support

How to Help Yourself

Seeing someone you love grapple with an eating disorder is not easy. Talking with them about it and dealing with the stressors involved in day-to-day care or responsibilities can make you feel emotionally drained, anxious, depressed, or even resentful.

While it’s important to find help for your family member in these cases, it’s equally as important to continue taking care of yourself.

It may be a good idea to schedule an appointment with a therapist, seek out counseling, or join a support group for people going through similar experiences. This can help you feel less alone and give you additional support and coping strategies for dealing with this challenging situation.

Self-care is also important. Try, when you can, to take a moment to yourself. Breathe, meditate, go for a walk, or do something relaxing. Remember: You can’t pour from an empty cup. The better you take care of yourself, the better you’ll be able to show up for others in your life.

When to Seek Help

If your loved one is showing physical, mental, or emotional signs of an eating disorder, or if their life is being disrupted by their condition, it’s time to seek out help. Eating disorders are dangerous conditions that can become deadly if left untreated, and they rarely get better on their own.

You or your loved one’s primary care physician or a licensed mental health professional can be a good place to start. These experts can help your loved one secure an official diagnosis and recommend treatment facilities or next best steps.

And try to stay hopeful. The recovery process is often long and rarely happens in a straight line, but help is always available, especially for those with family members who care.


  1. How to Talk to a Loved One about an Eating Disorder. (n.d.). National Eating Disorders Association. Retrieved May 7, 2023.

Last Updated on February 29th, 2024
Published on EatingDisorderHope.com