Eating Disorders - the reality for families

Anorexia, Bulimia, Binge Eating Disorder, Food Phobia, Food Avoidance Emotional Disorder? Since 1980 Anorexia and Bulimia Care has helped thousands of sufferers and their families care for and cope with eating disorders through the illness to recovery. It's Parent and Carer help line receives calls from mothers, fathers, step parents, grandparents, godparents, sisters, brothers and friends all worried and desperate to help someone dear to them, someone expressing their own difficulties with life in an emotional response towards food.

How does a parent feel? What can one do? Where does one go for help? What are the treatment options? How does it affect the rest of the family? How long does it take to recover? These are some of the frequently posed questions to “Ache”, their parent and carers’ help line. Parent callers want to “offload” their worries and feelings, they want to know if their fears are founded, when it’s time to approach the GP, how to persuade a young child or unwilling teenager or even a grown up “child” to go to the GP, how they as parents can encourage their child at meal times, stabilise falling weight, motivate towards recovery. They want to know whether uncharacteristic aggressive behaviour and abusive speech or the depression, voices and self-harming are a symptom of the illness. They are so relieved to be reassured that this is the case, that they are not alone and can receive understanding and practical suggestions as often as they need, from staff who have had first hand experience.

Some of The Main Feelings Experienced by Parents:

-- Fear as events and behaviour go out of their realm of comprehension and capabilities. Fear of the health implications, now very well known.
-- Terror as they see their most beloved child hurting and appearing to be self-destructing despite everyone’s best efforts.
-- Panic as they realise that losing weight, and other practises are dangerous, and they have no idea how abused a body can get before it’s critical.
--Anger and frustration at the apparent illogical mindset of the illness.
-- Exhaustion.
-- Misery.
-- Despair.
-- Spiritual attack and faith threatened.
-- Guilt that somehow they are doing something wrong, that they have failed to “turn things around”, that they have in some way caused the eating disorder.
-- Shame that people are judging them, accusing them, thinking that there must be something wrong with the family and particularly with the mother for not managing to provide good enough nutrition or indeed persuade her child to eat or have the necessary discipline, authority or care.
-- Isolation as they realise that people do not understand or respond appropriately with tact or kindness.

Sadly, the understanding of eating disorders by the general public is still poor and one-sided. Stereotypical attitudes and misconceptions are common so raising awareness and understanding of eating disorders is a priority for ABC as well as ministering to those in need. As the National Christian Eating Disorders organisation, its Christian staff all have personal experience of eating disorders and can testify to God’s healing through the process of recovery.

ABC, 05/02/2009
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