Carers, families and friends play a significant role in managing and caring for someone with an eating disorder.
They can provide physical, emotional and psychological support, as well as behavioural and practical support.
It is important to realise that anyone can experience an eating disorder. However, it is not always easy to detect evidence of an eating disorder in another person, as eating disorders cannot be identified by someone’s size or shape. This may make the characteristic behaviours of the illness difficult to recognise. It is also often very difficult for the person with an eating disorder to ask for help, so they may subsequently behave as if there is nothing wrong.
Being as informed as possible about warning signs and symptoms will help you identify the early stages of the illness in someone you are concerned about. This may be a matter of reading the information on this website or seeking out further information from other, trusted sources.
The earlier you uncover an eating disorder in someone you care about, the sooner you can seek help, access treatments and begin working towards recovery.
You can also talk to a professional who has specialised knowledge about eating disorders and who can provide advice and support and help you determine whether or not someone you care about has an eating disorder. You can also talk to your family doctor or GP or you can call the National Helpline for advice and support.
Being a carer
If you are caring for someone with an eating disorder it is possible that at certain times you may feel:
Distressed about what is happening to you, the person you care for, and how this is affecting you and your family
Anxious and afraid about the physical and psychological changes in the person you care for
Burnt out or worn out from the demands of caring for someone with an eating disorder, as well keeping on top of family life and work commitments
Guilty about your ‘role’ in the illness. It is very common to fear that you are in some way responsible for bringing on the disorder or that you did something wrong in relation to eating, food or habits
Confused about the best way to help, whether on a daily basis or in regards to the long-term goal of recovery
Hopeless about your ability to provide support or about whether the support you are giving is enough
Frustrated or upset because you can’t fix the problem ‘straight away’
Aggravated because you can’t access help and assistance from clinicians and other professionals in a timely manner
The important thing to keep in mind is that these are all valid and normal feelings experienced by carers.