Eating Disorder Awareness Week starts this week, and Mallory Rose, LMFT, and Family Institute clinician, weighs in today with her thoughts.
Anxiety at the Table
“Eating disorders and families are uniquely related, because while there is usually only one person in the family that displays the extreme symptoms of an eating disorder, the disease affects the entire family.
Because meal times can be such a central, everyday experience for families, an eating disorder can really disrupt a family’s way of connecting and communicating. For families dealing with eating disorders, what was once a time during an otherwise hectic day for re-connection quickly becomes an anxiety provoking experience for all family members.”
Eating Disorders Are Symptoms, Not Causes
“Parents are in a unique position to help their children receive any accurate mental health diagnoses, because they are with their children the majority of the time and can provide proper insight into their struggles.
I encourage families to start watching for the warning signs before an eating disorder develops. Often people who have both perfectionist and anxious personalities are more susceptible to an eating disorder. Because an eating disorder is a symptom and not a cause, I encourage parents to encourage their children to get help with anxiety before it can escalate to an eating disorder.”
It’s All About Control—But Not Controlling
“If you are worried about someone in your family displaying the warning signs of an eating disorder, do not try to control their eating or get them to eat more. It could have the antithetical outcome. Instead, address the routes of their anxiety. “Eating Disorders are usually about trying to manage control, and most people who suffer from the disease try to manage their anxiety through their weight and caloric intake.”
Be the Model
“Parents are also in a unique situation because they can demonstrate to their children healthy ways of coping with anxiety. Children are very perceptive and will notice even subtle signs of parents’ anxieties and insecurities. I encourage parents to really try to recognize and address their relationships with their bodies and food intake. Anxiety may be inevitable, but I encourage parents to work on healthy ways of coping for themselves and to also be healthy role models for their children.”
Read Mallory Rose’s full bio on our website.
Revisit our previous post about the importance of meal times for families.
To look for treatment for eating disorders or food-related issues, visit our Find-A-Therapist feature.