The Challenges of Caring For Someone with an Eating Disorder

The challenges of caring for someone with Anorexia Nervosa

Our psychological practitioner, Thea Sundrehagen discusses what it is like for carers of people suffering from Anorexia.

“Anorexia nervosa can be difficult to understand and relate to.

If you think about it, however, perfectionism and a need for control, two personality traits associated with the disorder, are easy to imagine.

Those who suffer from anorexia nervosa are a unique group, facing a series of unique challenges. Engaging with their social and educational/occupational environment can be very difficult due to both the physical and psychological symptoms of the disorder.

Below is a list of some of the psychological and physiological symptoms characteristic of the disorder. Psychiatrists and psychologists at The Blue Tree Clinic hope this list can help you understand a bit more about what your friend or family member is going through.

One dominant psychological symptom of the disorder is shame associated with eating, which can be experienced as all-consuming and highly disabling in everyday life.

Patients with anorexia nervosa also report feelings of mental discrepancy in a period of wellness (remission), which can manifest as a sort of identity crisis. To elaborate, they may experience a feeling of not being the person they see themselves as, or feel like on the inside, as they don’t think they are “thin enough”. This is often a cause of relapse and is therefore a target in e.g. CBT treatment, which focuses on reappraisal of symptoms as damaging or even life threatening.

Due to the positive emphasis they typically place on many of their physiological symptoms, particularly weight loss, the idea of getting better tends to conflict with their wishes. This can result in various treatment-resistant behaviours, and may even result in them refusing treatment all together.

The physical symptoms and associated medical complications (e.g. infertility, metabolism problems, exhaustion) may have a grave impact on both romantic and social relationships, as well as on general satisfaction with and quality of life.

Those who suffer from anorexia nervosa typically also suffer from other disorders such as anxiety, depression and OCD.

In light of this, it is not surprising that caring for patients with anorexia nervosa can be very challenging. Parents report anorexia nervosa to be chronic and disabling.  Caring for someone with anorexia nervosa can be an even larger burden than caring for family members with psychosis.

Ultimately, due to the stress related to the responsibility of caring for someone with anorexia nervosa, it is important that you take care of your own mental health along side supporting your loved one. Whether you talk to a friend, a family member, or a mental health practitioner, it is crucial that you do not carry the burden on your own.

For more information about anorexia nervosa or other eating disorders, or to book an appointment for your friend or family member, please get in touch with The Blue Tree Clinic through our website.”