Successfully taking on the role of caregiver is one of the most difficult jobs one can endure. Whether you are caring for a loved one who is terminally ill, battling an addiction or overcoming an eating disorder, sacrificing your free time, personal space, and emotions is just the beginning of what it requires to be the ultimate caregiver to a loved one. Although you may be trying to help, it may seem that you are constantly fighting an uphill battle. Sometimes you may not know what to say or you think you are saying the wrong thing or the individual you are caring for is not reciprocating love but rather is being mean and aggressive towards you. When caring for an individual with an eating disorder, it is important to understand the specific eating disorder your loved one is battling and how to respond appropriately. Below are tips and tricks every caregiver should know about navigating eating disorders:

  • Individuals who are struggling with an eating disorder did not choose their diagnosis and they usually do not intentionally mean to hurt their loved ones
  • Nobody is to blame for the eating disorder. Eating disorders are a mental illness and there are many contributing factors associated with them and not one individual or one cause can result in an eating disorder.
  • Caregivers should educate themselves and try to understand the disorder by reading credible sources and speaking with professionals.
  • Eating disorders have very little to do with food or weight but rather have deeper underlying triggers.
  • Caregivers should always offer encouragement to their loved ones by telling them how proud they are for the smallest accomplishments such as eating a meal without purging afterwards.
  • Caregivers should ask their loved ones questions about their eating disorder and wait for a response. Being curious, holding space for an answer and practicing empathy are basic steps caregivers can take to provide the best care to their loved one.
  • Caregivers should remember that appearances are just that. The physical body does not tell the story of an eating disorder and eating disorders affect individuals of all shapes and sizes. Even if an individual is at their target weight, they still could be battling the emotional tolls associated with an eating disorder.
  • Keep in mind that obsessive thoughts of food, weight and body image are occupying the minds of individuals with an eating disorder from the moment they wake up to the moment they go to bed.
  • Recovery is a long process and doesn’t happen overnight. It can take years to fully recover from an eating disorder.
  • Support groups, mindfulness, self-love, and strong communities are also needed in addition to professional treatment. There are also community support groups for caregivers as well.
  • As a caregiver, remember to take care of yourself. If you are not emotionally or mentally well then you may be doing a disservice to your loved one who is battling an eating disorder.

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