How Eating Disorders Affect Families

How Eating Disorders Affect FamiliesEating disorders like anorexia and bulimia are devastating psychological diseases with serious and often fatal consequences. The destruction they bring affects not only the victim, but the victim’s friends and family as well.

What Are Eating Disorders?

The brain uses a complex chemical and neurological system to manage the body. Eating, which seems like a simple process, actually involves an intricate combination of signals. First, the body lets a person know that she is hungry, and then it stimulates the digestive process and finally providing a feeling of satisfaction and fullness after eating. The chemical system that manages these feelings of pleasure and satisfaction can be damaged by dysfunctional habits, like eating disorders. Eating disorders compromise the whole process of eating and how it feels.

What Is Anorexia Nervosa?

Someone with anorexia nervosa refuses to eat a healthy amount of food which causes a variety of physical and psychological effects. Most anorexic patients fear being fat and develop a deeply distorted view of their bodies. Even severely underweight patients may think that they are overweight and will refuse to eat as a result. Anorexia is often accompanied by other psychological issues such as depression, anxiety or obsessive compulsive disorder. If left untreated victims will eventually starve. The majority of cases are not identified or treated until it is too late to avoid permanent damage.

What Is Bulimia?

A person with bulimia will eat – often in excess – and then purge the food through forced vomiting or by abusing diet medications, laxatives or diuretics. Like anorexia, bulimia often starts as an emotional disorder or insecurity that then becomes solidified as a compulsive habit. Bulimic patients suffer from a wide range of internal organ problems, depression, extreme tooth decay and addiction to the medications they abuse.

Effects of Eating Disorders on a Family

Untreated eating disorders have obvious and severe effects on their victims, but as with all psychological illnesses, eating disorders impact bystanders as well. Feelings of confusion, frustration and guilt often plague family members of someone with an eating disorder. Others try to deny the disease or to escape their feelings about it through substance abuse or avoidance. Family support, however, is crucial to recovering from an eating disorder. The following are ways family members can show their support to the suffering member while also developing a healthier understanding of the disease:

  • Family counseling: Attending counseling sessions as a family can facilitate healthy communication. Learning to understand the perspective of others and how best to show love and support are also benefits of family therapy.
  • Developing a healthier relationship with food: Many families struggle with over-eating or with body-type expectations that are unrealistic. Intentionally developing a new family-wide approach to eating and fitness can be very powerful.
  • Education: Books, helplines and counselors can provide much-needed understanding about the root causes, contributing factors and most effective treatment methods for long term recovery from eating disorders.

Help with Eating Disorders

If you or someone you love is suffering from an eating disorder please call our toll-free helpline today. Our specially trained counselors are on hand seven days a week, 24 hours a day. We can confidentially answer any questions you may have and can help you find the help you need. Don’t wait one more day. Freedom and peace of mind are available. Call now.