How to Help Someone With an Eating Disorder

March 11, 2020

The last week of February following into March begins eating disorder awareness week of 2020.

An eating disorder is a mental health condition marked by an obsession with food or a body type, and is a leading cause of death among people who struggle with mental illnesses according to National Eating Disorders Association and National Association of ANAD.

A particular form of this condition known as anorexia nervosa can be recognized as a fixation on losing weight.

If you’re someone who has never struggled with body image issues or unhealthy eating habits, it can be difficult to understand the logic behind this state of mind.
You may still find yourself concerned for someone and unsure of how to approach them.

In order to help effectively, it’s necessary to get a sense of what happens to them internally.

A person who suffers with anorexia nervosa is going to have a distorted perception of their own body.
For some, to feel hunger is to feel euphoria.

The hunger instinct is going to become reversed as the mind continues to receive inadequate nutrition, and starving will start to feel normal.
The instinct to eat tends to shut off if the mind stays malnourished, If not treated soon enough, this illness can reach a point where eating less becomes seriously life threatening, as this person is going to experience an unhealthy pressure on themselves to lose weight.

This person is not going to be strong enough to stop losing weight on their own, so if you want to help there are ways to approach it.
You may notice discomfort around eating habits along with food in general, so you want to reward any small steps in the right direction.
There tends to be a difficult time with whole meals, so you want to suggest small snacks instead.

It is more likely for this person to eat if offered a small quantity than a large one, but their response may still be absolute refusal.
You want to encourage this person to eat even the smallest amount of food, but do not insist.

If it reaches the point where they refuse food for days at a time, it is imperative to seek medical help.
Continue to reinforce any signs of positive behavior, and keep in mind that it’s better for them to eat a little than nothing at all.
With time and proper treatment, the mind will heal as the body is nourished.

You want to provide the reassurance that it’s okay to eat, and for this person to understand that food is fuel rather than just something that makes you gain weight.
Remind this person that restricting food will slow down the metabolism, and eating food will raise it back up, giving them more energy.
Remember this person is terrified to eat, so telling them to “just eat” only causes feelings of misunderstanding.

To tell someone they look healthy seems like a harmless compliment, but this can really trigger the desire to further look unhealthy and sickly.
People with anorexia nervosa tend to not want to look healthy based on their ideal image of themselves.

To support someone with anorexia nervosa could simply be to avoid making any comments on appearance, food, numbers, calories, exercise–all of it.
You don’t want to be forceful at all, despite their condition, because there may be the urge to throw it back up.

Purging by self-induced vomiting is a common behavior among people with eating disorders.
It may eventually cause issues like acid reflux, dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, and more as said by Medical News Today.
The heart can be especially affected when suffering from this behavior.

To approach someone with an eating disorder is going to be a challenge, as you may be met with great resistance.
Even so, this person could be experiencing complications with bodily organs and systems, so you are going to want to express concern to a guardian or professional.

The most dependable option is to go to urgent care when nothing else seems to be working, but always be supportive with them through their journey back to recovery.
Remember there is no singular cause for the development of anorexia nervosa, so don’t blame yourself or anyone else for it.

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