Eating disorders - Caring for someone with eating disorders

Carers, friends and family

Learning that a son, daughter, partner or friend is suffering from an eating disorder can be very difficult. It can be very hard to understand why someone might vomit after eating or refuse to eat full stop. It can also be very frightening to see someone lose weight and feel like you are unable to help.

It is important to remember that an eating disorder is a mental illness and that vomiting or starving are symptoms of the illness. Carers may feel anxious, guilty, helpless or even angry and want their friend, son, daughter or partner to be given help to make them change straight away. An especially useful resource is the BEAT website, which has helpful and sensible information for carers and partners. In-patient care will include families and partners in treatment, including being invited to ward rounds and care meetings or taking part in family therapy. This is especially the case for younger people under the age of 16.

Out-patient care, and in particular psychotherapy or counselling, may not necessarily include partners or family members, as treatment is confidential. However, it is usually possible for carers to have a discussion with the therapist to discuss their concerns during the assessment phase.

Please also see our section on resources.

With thanks to The Manchester Mental Health and Social Care Trust for writing this article for Uncovered magazine issue 3.

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