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MumsnetGuestPosts (MNHQ) Tue 03-Mar-20 09:39:27

Guest post: “If you’re supporting a loved one with an eating disorder, you don’t have to deal with it alone”

In this guest post, Samantha from Beat talks about the challenges that face those caring for people with an eating disorder.

Samantha Turton

Head of Support Services, Beat

Posted on: Tue 03-Mar-20 09:39:27

(9 comments )

Lead photo

If you’re supporting a loved one with an eating disorder, you don’t have to deal with it alone.

At Beat, the UK’s eating disorder charity, our Helpline Advisors hear all the time from people who are just realising they may have an eating disorder. one piece of advice we give all of them is to seek help now. The quicker they can get a diagnosis and get into treatment, the better their chance of making a full recovery. Speaking with Beat’s Helpline may be the first step towards getting better.

But for some, we’re just one part of the network of support around the person suffering. The family, friends, healthcare professionals and others who help someone through an eating disorder can play a key part in recovery. For children with eating disorders, family therapy is often the first treatment recommended; plenty of those who have recovered from eating disorders have credited those around them with helping them stay on track, or picking them up when they were down. But caring for someone through an eating disorder is no simple task, and it’s made even more difficult if those people don’t get the help and information they need to be able to provide proper support to their loved one.

We believe around 5 million people, both those suffering and those supporting them, are seriously affected by an eating disorder right now. Having a loved one with an eating disorder can be frightening and isolating, and these are illnesses surrounded by misconceptions. There’s a lack of training for the healthcare professionals key to providing access to treatment; treatment itself is underfunded and often people face long waits before they can get the help they need. During this time, the illness can develop further as people around the sufferer fight to keep them healthy – and in some cases, fight to keep them alive. Furthermore, eating disorders can completely transform those suffering from them, and encouraging engagement with treatment can be an uphill battle in itself.

Thrown into uncertain, stressful, and often completely alien circumstances, many carers find themselves without adequate guidance


The guidelines on eating disorders from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) are clear that those caring for someone with an eating disorder should be given information about eating disorders and their loved one’s treatment. Families should be offered assessments of their own needs, too, including what they might need in terms of practical support and the impact of the eating disorder on their own wellbeing. But neither of these things necessarily happen.

“I really had little guidance as to what I could do other than try and get [my daughter] to follow the meal plan, and after just a few months I was on my knees feeling desperately unhappy and finding that family life was very difficult to manage,” one parent told us recently, an experience that unfortunately isn’t uncommon. Thrown into uncertain, stressful, and often completely alien circumstances, many carers find themselves without adequate guidance. While some manage to find help, whether through Helpline services like the one from Beat or local support groups, they should not be left to find these measures for themselves, nor should these be a replacement for the tailored, in-depth information they should receive regarding their loved one’s illness. This has to change for both their sake and that of the person they’re supporting.

For Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2020, Beat is focusing on the issues faced by those caring for people with an eating disorder. Not only is it distressing and frightening to see a loved one go through such a horrible illness, but eating disorders can take a serious toll on carers’ wellbeing, have major financial implications, and disrupt people’s work, education and social lives. As a parent described it, “I have aged 100 years and have never known anxiety like it. I have had to be the driving force at every turn and have had to be vigilant 24 hours a day for 15 months now. It’s exhausting.”

We believe that with the right support and information, things don’t have to be this way. We also know that well-informed, well-supported carers are better able to care for their loved ones. That’s why we’re asking people to join us this Eating Disorders Awareness Week in demanding the best care, support and information for people with eating disorders and their friends and family.

If you’re supporting a loved one with an eating disorder, you don’t have to deal with it alone. Beat offers Helpline services via telephone, email, one-to-one webchat, online peer support groups for anyone supporting someone with an eating disorder, telephone-based one-to-one peer coaching, and training for carers. Eating Disorders Awareness Week runs from 2-8 March 2020. You can learn more about Beat’s campaign work for better quality treatment and information for everyone affected by eating disorders here.

By Samantha Turton

Twitter: @beatED

NJD44 Tue 03-Mar-20 12:48:22

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Oblomov20 Tue 03-Mar-20 18:32:27

I have a friend whose dd needs help. Mum certainly does too.

lisalisa Tue 03-Mar-20 22:32:00

Most of this coujd have been written by me . The one thing you missed out was the effect on family finances. As a single parent I practically had to give up
Work whilst still trying to find nearly £90 a week parking charges at my local
hospital .
Also we quickly progressed from just an eating disorder to keeping her alive .
I did age by 10 years and never recovered.

Bringringbring12 Thu 05-Mar-20 11:16:46

@lisalisa flowers

How is your child now?

BeatEDSupport Thu 05-Mar-20 18:30:30

Hi @Oblomov20,
thanks for your comment, here is some information for how to support someone with an eating disorder for you to have a look at yourself or with your friend - www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk/supporting-someone.

It is really important for anyone caring for someone with an eating disorder to get support too, we do have a support group for carers which runs every Tuesday & Sunday 7:00-8:15pm.
www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk/aviary

Please feel free to reach out to us if you need further support, www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk/support-services

Best Wishes

BeatEDSupport Thu 05-Mar-20 18:35:21

Hi @lisalisa
Thanks for your comment,

Sounds like things have been really difficult for you, we do have an online support group for those who are caring for anyone with an eating disorder if you would like to maybe speak to someone who may be going through something similar to get some peer support?
www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk/aviary

If you want advice and support feel free to contact us on our helpline 0808 801 0677 if you would like to talk anything through with an advisor.

Best Wishes

Grumpyoldblonde Thu 05-Mar-20 18:37:59

LisaLisa is so right, it’s hugely expensive, it’s impossible to work and care for someone with an ED, add travel to appointments, entertainment to try to raise their spirits and the amount of food you need to buy (I’ve spent thousands)

Actually, you do have to do it pretty much alone, it’s a lonely, isolating illness and people tend not to offer much practical help when it’s a mental illness, and you need practical help (laundry, shopping) because often you can’t leave your child for a moment. It’s exhausting and yeah, I’ve aged dramatically.
Nearly out the other side now thank goodness, definitely feeling the effects of the trauma we’ve been through.

BeatEDSupport Thu 05-Mar-20 18:52:13

Hello @Grumpyoldblonde

I am pleased to hear you feel like your nearly out the other side now, it is still important that you reach out for support if you ever felt like you needed to speak to someone!
You can either call us on 0808 801 0677 or you can use our support groups for carers.

Best Wishes

KTyoupigeon Sun 08-Mar-20 00:21:56

I have a now 23year old DD with diagnosed Bulimia, BDD and suicide ideation. Not once since she has been diagnosed aged 15/16 have our family EVER been offered support! Even after being discharged from hospital after a very serious attempt on her life we (her parents) didn’t even get offered help or support! We still live with this day in day out and it’s soul destroying and so very stressful to see your child (albeit she is now an adult) suffering. It’s put a massive strain on our family emotionally and financially with little or NO help even for her let alone her family

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