Families with loved ones in recovery from eating disorders can often benefit from a network of support. Just as those with eating disorders benefit from eating disorder support groups; families find solace in expressing their feelings and learning ways to cope with issues that arise during a loved one’s battle. Support groups for families and loved ones can enable them to have a safe space to speak and to learn while processing their own emotions while arming themselves with tools to help their loved ones in recovery, which can be a form of self-care for family members. Support groups for families also offer educational tips and advice to enhance the knowledge and understanding of eating disorders in an attempt to debunk any myths and break down the stigma associated with eating disorders.

Who should attend an eating disorder support group?
The answer is anyone who is affected by an eating disorder, whether you are the husband of a woman who is struggling with anorexia or the mother of a daughter who is binging and purging; you are witnessing a loved one routinely engage in bizarre and dangerous behaviors that are destroying lives. Listening to your daughter wretch in the bathroom after meals and watching your wife lose half her body weight is terrifying and can leave you feeling helpless, powerless, and devastated. How can you possibly understand what your loved ones are going through? By engaging with others in support who are experiencing the same feelings, it is possible to find answers and solace. Whether you are a parent, a sibling, or a friend of someone who is struggling with an eating disorder, it is incredibly helpful to be surrounded by people who not only understand but also can provide comfort and advice.

Family support groups may be generalized, or there may be options tailored to more specific needs. For example, there are support groups especially for parents of a child with an eating disorder, spouses of individuals with eating disorders, siblings, caregivers, and more. Connecting with a group in a safe environment, whether it is in person or online, can be an invaluable resource for any loved one involved. National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) and National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD) provide support groups and educational materials for individuals who have loved ones in eating disorder recovery.

Families Empowered and Supporting Treatment of Eating Disorders (F.E.A.S.T.)
Families Empowered and Supporting Treatment of Eating Disorders (F.E.A.S.T.) is a network geared toward parents and siblings of individuals with eating disorders. F.E.A.S.T.’s founding principles include, “Parents do not cause eating disorders, and clients do not choose eating disorders,” and, “Siblings and parents are affected by a family member’s illness; their needs deserve full attention, too.” From in-person seminars, self help online resources, and family activities to online virtual discussion groups, conferences, blogs, and news articles F.E.A.S.T provides the help and support for family members of those who are struggling with an eating disorder.