Bringing up a subject concerning mental health or disordered eating behaviors is never an easy one for concerned family and friends. Few subjects are more personal and difficult to broach than a disorder like anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, or others. And although it’s difficult to have these conversations, it usually falls on those closest to encourage loved ones to get help.
When discussing the benefits of anorexia nervosa treatment or treatment for another eating disorder with loved ones, it is normal to anticipate an emotionally charged conversation. You may face a refusal to talk, resistance to opening up, and maybe crying. It sounds terrifying. However, taking the time to mentally prepare for a difficult conversation getting loved ones help from an eating disorder treatment center is necessary. To help parents and other family members begin this vital conversation, we’ve highlighted a few tips below.
How to Get Ready for “The Talk” with Loved Ones
1. Learn More About Their Eating Disorders
Most people don’t have a complete understanding of what eating disorders entail. You might be tempted to say something like, “Why don’t you just eat more?” which can be wildly counterproductive. GO online or talk to a doctor about what eating disorders are, how they affect people mentally and physically, and try to put that information into the context of their behaviors. This will help you empathize with them and keep you in a non-judgmental mindset. There are a ton of blogs, eating disorder-focused social media accounts, and informational sites online – and you don’t need to be a doctor to understand the information.
2. Be Compassionate and DO NOT Judge
Choose a time that won’t be too stressful, for example, right after a meal. This is the first step to being compassionate. Put yourself in their shoes for a minute – and extend them the same compassion you’d like if you were in their shoes. Begin the conversation in a private space when everyone has adequate time to speak openly and honestly. You should always broach the subject of eating disorder treatment in a caring and non-confrontational manner. Importantly, don’t ever judge them or make accusations. Instead, focus on disordered eating behaviors that have been affecting their lives and yours.
3. Listen to What They Have to Say
This is perhaps the most important step in the entire process. If you’re trying to push your opinion or agenda, they will feel ignored or accused. Give them plenty of time to express their feelings, fears, and concerns, and don’t interrupt. Listen carefully to each response in an open and non-judgmental manner. Avoid “you” statements like “You’re hurting yourself.” Such statements come off as accusations, and people with eating disorders often already feel ashamed about their disorders. If they won’t talk about the issue, you may want to consult a professional therapist or interventionist – it’s not a wise idea to force the issue yourself.
4. Remember to Validate Their Emotions
From time to time during the conversation, recap what’s already been discussed objectively. Simply listing what they have said will help them to feel heard and validated. Even though they may not admit that there’s a problem, their feelings can’t be “wrong.” Eventually, they’ll come to understand that having a mental health condition should not be a source of shame or guilt. Parents, spouses, or close friends trying to help should once again restate their concerns and explain that eating disorder treatment is essential for long-term recovery.
5. Make Sure You are Ready to Take Action
If you’re having “the talk,” you’re likely concerned enough about their disordered behaviors to make provisions for the next step, like researching an eating disorder treatment center, before beginning the conversation. If they’re amenable to seeking help, you’ll have an action step ready. If they aren’t ready yet, you can do further research or reach out to a therapist who specializes in eating disorders. Offer to make an appointment with them and to accompany them for an initial consultation.
Don’t Wait – Early Intervention Saves Lives
Approaching such a sensitive subject can be very intimidating for most people. But considering the potential health consequences of eating disorders – the deadliest form of psychiatric disorders – and the proven fact that the earlier the intervention, the better the chances for recovery, it’s best to hold this conversation earlier rather than later. Eating disorders are treatable. You can make a difference in your loved one’s life today.
If you or someone you know experiences mental health issues, it is important to seek help from a qualified professional. Our Resource Specialist can help you find expert mental health resources to recover in your community. Contact us now for more information on this free service to our users.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: CARRIE HUNNICUTT
With 20 years of behavioral health business development experience, Carrie combines world-class marketing, media, public relations, outreach, and business development with a deep understanding of client care and treatment. Her contributions to the world of behavioral health business development – and particularly eating disorder treatment – go beyond simple marketing; she has actively developed leaders for her organizations and for the industry at large.
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash
The opinions and views expressed in any guest blog post do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in the article or linked to therein. Guest Authors may have affiliations to products mentioned or linked to in their author bios only.
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