Secrecy and denial are big parts of most eating disorders. So, if you tell someone with a clear eating disorder, "you need treatment," you're not typically going to get a positive response. Your loved one may outright deny that anything is wrong — or they may stop talking to you entirely because they can't handle the criticism. How, then, are you supposed to help your loved one get treatment for their anorexia? Every case and every person is different, but the following tips and guidelines are generally helpful.
Make the conversation about you and your concerns.
One mistake people often make when approaching a loved one about an eating disorder is asking too many questions or making too many accusations. You don't want to accuse your loved one of having an eating disorder, as this will put them on the defensive. You also don't want to grill them with questions about what's going on or what's bothering them. A better approach is to make this conversation about you. Express your concerns. Explain how much better it would make you feel if your loved one were to see a therapist. People with eating disorders often do not have enough self-confidence to want to do something for themselves, but your loved one may be willing to seek treatment if they believe they are doing so for you.
Just suggest therapy, at first.
Your loved one very well might benefit from an intensive, in-patient anorexia treatment. But suggesting this, at first, may be way too much. A better approach is to suggest a simple therapy session. You don't even have to use the words "eating disorder" when suggesting therapy to your loved one. You could simply say something like that it would make you feel a lot better if they would see someone to talk about the anxiety and worry you can tell they are feeling. After seeing your loved one, a therapist may feel they need more intensive, in-patient care, and then they can suggest that. Trained therapists know how to tactfully and effectively recommend treatment to eating disorder patients.
Ask other family members to talk to your loved one, too.
Don't gang up on your loved one intervention-style. This tends to leave patients with eating disorders feeling attacked, overwhelmed, and defensive. What you should do, though is ask other family members to have similar discussions with your loved one about therapy. They should take the same approach — expressing their own concern and explaining how it would make them feel better if your loved one sought treatment. Space these conversations out by a few days or weeks. After hearing many people in their lives express concern, many eating disorder patients are able to take that first step and seek treatment.
Getting a loved one with an eating disorder to seek treatment can be a huge step, but with the tips above, you should find success. Remember to be patient. This is hard for your loved one; they need your support.
For more information, reach out to an anorexia treatment center in your area.