Medical Articles

Eating Disorders: How Families Can Work As a Team to Help Their Anorexic Loved One

When someone in your family is diagnosed with anorexia it can feel like you are all held hostage to the eating disorder. Everything starts to revolve around your ED child, food, and getting her to eat. Often, however, this laser like attention is not a productive kind of focus.

One of the things I love about the Maudsley Approach is the ED is discussed openly with every family member present. Each family member gets educated about what is about to happen. It doesn't mean there are not age-appropriate considerations; but for the most part all are on an equal playing field as far as education is concerned.

The other aspect of the Maudsley Approach I like is every family member has a role to play. Often parents and siblings are more observers than participants in treatment. Every member then feels powerless and frightened because they want to help but don't know how.

At the first family meeting using Maudsley, everyone is given a job to do and that makes them feel useful, proud and hopeful that there is something they get to do to help. Brothers and sisters need to be a part of helping their sister heal.

Siblings are asked to align with their ill sister. They are to encourage and distract her after meals and snacks. They can ask her to play a game, talk about school with her, watch a favorite television program or play computer games with her. The only limitations are their creativity and no exercise if her weight is too low.

When siblings are actively involved it helps them feel important and makes them part of the team. This helps with resentment toward their sister at times when she is getting a lot of attention.

It also brings the family together to beat the eating disorder. Everyone works toward a common goal; their sister's recovery and health.


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