Anorexia definition is characterized by the intense fear of gaining weight, a distorted body image, inability to maintain a minimally normal weight and extreme dietary habits that prevent weight gain. It is estimated that 1.0% to 4.2% of women have suffered from anorexia in their lifetime and anorexia nervosa known as the most deadly mental health disorder. When your loved one is struggling with anorexia nervosa, supporting them through their struggle and recovery may feel overwhelming. It is important to remember that the best way to support your loved one is by acting in a supportive and loving capacity:
Let your loved one know that you are there for them by offering practical tasks and emotional support.
Being a metaphorical or literal shoulder to cry on is very important for individuals with anorexia nervosa. It is not only important to offer emotional space and advice, but it is also important to help with tasks such as laundry, grocery shopping, and transportation to and from appointments. Engage your loved one with activities and outing that do not involve food so they can take their mind off any stress associated with their eating disorder
Educate yourself on eating disorders, specifically anorexia nervosa.
Learn the difference between myths and facts and understand the warning signs and complications associated with anorexia nervosa by reading books, attending support groups and researching blogs written by reputable organizations such as NEDA, ANAD, and Eating Disorder Hope.
Help your loved one devise an action plan.
Without the proper treatment, anorexia nervosa can be deadly, and it is imperative that your loved one seeks treatment sooner than later as the longer he/she delays treatment the more likely complications can arise. Ask your loved one if he/she needs any help finding a treatment specialist or if they require you to accompany them to a support group. Listen openly and reflectively without passing judgment and be prepared if you loved one does relapse.
Check in with your loved one.
Ask them how they are doing, if they are worried or stressed about anything, and how their appointments are going. Be an active listener, and try not to offer advice when they are not asking for it.
Model a balanced relationship with food, weight, and exercise
Avoid discussions about food, weight, and eating, especially your habits or those of others and focus on positive personality traits and other qualities that have nothing to do with appearance.
Remember to make time to take care of yourself.
Dealing with a loved one who struggles with anorexia nervosa can take a toll on you. Make sure you set boundaries, have your coping strategies, and know that you are doing your best for yourself and your loved one.