How to Start a Conversationedchkadmin2017-03-02T06:35:45+00:00
Talking about it is the first step
If you suspect someone you are close to has an eating disorder, then it’s important to talk to them about it. Why? Because an eating disorder can be very serious. People who develop eating disorders are at a high risk of developing medical complications. They may even die from their illness. In fact, eating disorders have a higher death rate than any other mental illness. But there is good news…
You can start early
Don’t wait until you think it is serious to talk about it. The earlier treatment is sought, the greater and quicker the chance of recovery. This is why treatment is encouraged as soon as possible. There is even better news…
People DO recover
Most people recover from an eating disorder. And recovery is always possible regardless of age and length of illness. It is important to seek medical advice as soon as possible. A multi-disciplinary treatment team of (at least) a doctor, dietician and therapist is recommended.
When someone with an eating disorder is approached about concerning behaviours, it is very common for the person to deny the existence or the seriousness of the disorder. Sometimes the shame around certain behaviours is so great that the individual feels they can’t be honest with anyone about what they are doing. This denial, ambivalence or shame can be a source of real confusion and frustration for families and friends who are keen to support their loved one to get well.
Admitting there is a problem is an important step in the road to recovery. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the person with an eating disorder will act on this information. They may also choose to do nothing about it. This can also be frustrating for those around them wishing to help.
Trust your gut
If you think something is wrong you are more than likely right. Go with your gut feeling.
Take notes It may be helpful to keep a note of behaviours that are causing you concerns – this can help keep a conversation focussed and it may also help to have it available when you (or the person you care about) visits with the GP.
It’s not your fault It’s helpful to remember you are not the cause of or to be blamed for the eating disorder. Development of an eating disorder is complex and usually has more than one contributing factor – you can, however, can be part of the treatment and recovery.
Be knowledgeable Before approaching your loved one, have some understanding of eating disorders. Reading suggestions at the end of this section
Choose the right time As with all important conversations, approach the person you care about when you can have time and privacy. It’s important that the conversation isn’t rushed. It’s also best to choose a time when you/they are not eating, or just finished a meal.
Approach with awareness Approach them in a way that is appropriate to where you think they are in terms of readiness to change (in terms of stages of change point 5). Do not despair if you get a negative response initially.
Care, don’t judge When speaking with the person, ensure you are not critical or judgemental. Instead let them know you care and want to help. Express your concerns are using ‘I statements’. But rather than saying “I am really mad at you, you are choosing not eat” you may want to say something closer to “ I am really concerned. I can see that eating is becoming difficult for you and I wonder if you may have an eating disorder. What do you think?”. It may be helpful to practice once or twice first.
Seek professional support
An eating disorder is a mental illness – and it is complex. You need to get professionals involved.
Caring for a loved one with an Eating Disorder
A Carer’s Guide to Understanding the Illness and Keeping Well. January 2015 [AUST] Austin Health & St Vincents HospitalP 17-25 and also P.28 are particularly relevant