How to Help Someone with Anorexia
Anorexia Nervosa or “Anorexia” is a debilitating disorder that causes a person to become obsessed with being thin, losing weight and maintaining a slim figure. They will do whatever it takes to remain this way despite the negative health consequences that are associated with it.
Anorexia takes over your mind to the point that the person can’t think about anything else and will do whatever they can to lose weight. This usually means using unhealthy strategies such as purging, using laxatives, diet aids, diuretics or other harmful substances to keep their weight low. There are many negative health consequences to being anorexic and it can impact a person’s overall health and be deadly.
Symptoms of Anorexia:
- Severe weight loss
- Wearing layers to hide weight loss
- Obsessed with weight gain, food, calories, dieting or exercise
- Denies hunger cues
- Uncomfortable eating in public
- Talks about needing to burn off calories
- Avoids mealtimes or situations where food is involved
- Refuses to eat specific foods in fear of gaining weight (no carbohydrates, fats, etc.)
- Unable to maintain a weight that is appropriate for their age, height and overall build
- Intense fear of being overweight or fat despite weight loss
- Body aches such as constipation, lethargy, cold intolerance or excess energy
- Constantly commenting on being fat or overweight
- Female loses period post puberty
- Inflexible thinking and lack of social spontaneity
- Heightened emotional expression
- Gastrointestinal problems including stomach pains, constipation or acid reflux
- Irregular menstrual cycles
- Difficulties with concentration
- Feeling cold all the time
- Dry skin
- Sleep disturbances
- Dizziness or fainting
- Anemia, low thyroid or other hormone imbalances
- Fine hair on the body (lanugo)
- Muscle weakness
- Cuts or callouses around the finger or joint area due to forced vomiting
- Yellowing skin
- Lowered immune system
- Dental problems such as cavities or tooth sensitivity
- Dry or brittle hair
- Poor wound healing
Helping Someone with Anorexia
The best way to help someone who has anorexia is to be there for them, support them and become educated on the disease. A loved one is often the person that encourages someone to seek treatment and help if they suffer from anorexia. Family and friends can play an important role in recognizing worrisome behaviors and encouraging the person to seek help for it. It’s not always easy to discuss an eating disorder with someone you care about, and they may become defensive or deny that there is a problem.
My name is Ashley Lytwyn and I’m the director of nutrition at breathe life healing centers in West Hollywood California. At Breathe we help people recover from eating disorders and anorexia is an eating disorder that we treat.
Anorexia is a disorder that is characterized by very low body weight. The fear of gaining weight even if it’s just a couple pounds and having a distorted view of your own body or shape.
People suffering from anorexia are compelled to diet and exercise regardless of the negative consequences on the body mind and soul. Restricting food becomes an automatic habit and thought of eating high-calorie food has a lot of fear and anxiety. With the restriction the brain of the gut function is altered a person is in a starved state. This changes the way that we think and behave the ability to pay attention to focus to concentrate on things that you would normally love and that starts to deteriorate.
When the brain isn’t getting enough food it will constantly think about what it needs. And in this case its food!
A few causes of anorexia might be genetic or hormonal. Specifically relating to the signals that convey hunger and fullness. It might be social or environmental with popular diet culture. Emphasizing yo-yo dieting, glorifying weight loss, and idealizing people in smaller bodies.
It can also be asymptomatic expression of unresolved trauma. The treatment and recovery process for anorexia can be challenging due to the sheer nature of this disorder.
The disorder takes away the ability to rationally or reasonably think about what food does for the body. And what it really does? It provide respect and nourishment for our lives. Weight restoration, normalizing eating behaviors, and challenging those negative perceptions about food and body are the first steps for recovery.
How to Discuss Eating Concerns with a Loved One
Become educated on the disease- Learn as much as you can from articles, books, brochures etc. on health, nutrition and healthy eating habits. This will help you talk with your loved one. It’s important to recognize the facts rather than myths about eating disorders.
Setup a time to talk privately- Make sure to find a time and place where you are alone and can discuss your concern that they have an eating disorder. Nobody likes their personal life to be publicly displayed and this allows the person to feel more secure and safe.
Practice what you will say- It can be helpful to write out your thoughts beforehand and what you’d like to say. This can reduce stress and anxiety over the conversation and allow you to plan out your main points.
Use “I” statements- Using “I” statements makes the person feel less attacked. When you make statements like “you don’t ever eat” etc. the person may feel like they are being accused and take things the wrong way.
Be understanding, caring and firm- It’s important to not make promises or statements that you can’t keep. For example, “if you do this again, we can’t be friends” or “I won’t tell anyone else.” Being firm is okay and allows you to not feel as though you are being manipulated.
Tell someone- As difficult as it may be, it’s pertinent to talk to the person right away when you have concerns before it’s too late or life-threatening. The person going through this needs a lot of support from friends and family during this time.
Encourage treatment- The best things for someone with an eating disorder is to seek out help and treatment as soon as possible. Offer to help them find a physician or treatment center where they can get the best help for themselves.
Stick to facts- Try not to let your emotions get the best of you and take over the conversation. Stick to the facts and behaviors that you’ve noticed that are areas of concern.
Be prepared for them to be negative or defensive- Nobody wants to hear that they have a problem or that they are potentially doing something wrong. It’s common for people to become defensive or deny that they have a problem at all.
Be honest- Be open and honest about how you are feeling and what you are concerned about. Avoiding the situation or not being upfront will not be good in the long run and won’t help.
It can be very difficult for someone with anorexia to change their behavior and understand or admit that they have a problem. If the person is malnourished in anyway then it can cause their thinking to be distorted. The best thing to do is to be as supportive as possible and encourage the person to find the necessary treatment to get better.
Los Angeles Anorexia Treatment
Anorexia is one of the most painful mental health disorders in the world. Not only are you suffering from the severe physical effects caused by the disorder, but you are probably also grappling with the emotional aspects of it, too. Continuing with your behaviors surrounding food and nourishment will only lead to negative results, including the potential for death. And while it can be hard to ask for help, doing so can save your life.
There is no shame in struggling with an eating disorder, regardless of how severe it is. Participating in anorexia eating disorder treatment in Los Angeles can help you to not only get better physically but also address the psychological issues that stand in the way from accepting yourself as you are.
There is no time to wait. Call us today and begin your journey to recovery.