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What To Do if a Family Member Has an Eating Disorder

Accept that there are no quick and easy solutions for recovery from an eating disorder. Therapists, physicians and other eating disorder experts have no magic cure. If your loved one is to get lasting recovery, she needs to make changes in her attitude and behaviors. These changes take time. You cannot make them for her. You, your family and friends do need to make changes to accommodate her growth. Work with your loved one and her therapist to find out what these changes involve. Some suggestions include the following:

  • Once your loved one or friend is in therapy, avoid getting into discussions or arguments about weight and food. If you become concerned about weight loss, dehydration or other signs of medical jeopardy, call the therapist, physician or both.
  • Verbally and physically express love and affection. Do not tie your caring to sermons about eating or demands for weight gain. Admit that at times you feel angry and frustrated, helpless, powerless and enraged. Let her see that having these feelings does not take away from your love for her.
  • Develop ways of sharing and socializing that do not involve food.
  • Practice good sense. Do not diet. It is very difficult for the person with the eating disorder to develop healthy attitudes about food and weight loss when those around her reinforce the value of weight loss.
  • Avoid power struggles.
  • Recognize that people with eating disorders are usually quite ambivalent about getting well. At times she may want recovery, and at other times she may want to retreat into the safety and security of her rituals.
What To Do if a Family Member Has an Eating Disorder

Toby D. Goldsmith, MD

APA Reference
Goldsmith, T. (2018). What To Do if a Family Member Has an Eating Disorder. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 19, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Oct 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Oct 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.