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12 Things To Remember If You Love A Person With Anorexia

12 Things To Remember If You Love A Person With Anorexia

Do you know someone who suffers from anorexia? It is an eating disorder and while you may think this is a relatively rare condition, the fact is that 1 in 2 people in the USA either have suffered from an eating disorder or know someone who does. According to The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, there are 24 million people in the USA alone who are struggling with these disorders.

The problem is that myths abound about these disorders which lead to ignorance, stigma and difficulty in seeking treatment. These disorders are serious illnesses, yet they are often dismissed as minor mental ticks!

Here are 12 things to keep in mind if you love or know someone with anorexia. Knowledge is empowerment.

1. They are trying to cope with life challenges.

A person with anorexia is not eating properly because that may be the only way she or he can cope with some deeper and more difficult issues. The incidents with purging, bulimia and fasting are all just external symptoms of a deep seated mental illness.

Too often, people dismiss anorexics as being obsessed with their body image and merely vain.

2. They have been subjected to false media messages.

Many teenage girls have been blasted with media messages which emphasize that you have to be skinny to be successful. We all know about TV ads and other social media spouting these messages. But there are more subtle ways that youth leaders, coaches and even teachers are inadvertently drawing attention to teens’ body images.

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We only have to think about certain sports which focus too much on weight, not to mention dance studios and gyms which are covered in mirrors. You cannot escape them!

3. They are not going through a phase.

Anorexia can be successfully treated and should not be dismissed as a phase or a fad. That is what psychiatrists and psychologists who are treating this disease have to get across to parents, teachers and other leaders that the youth look up to. This is a mental illness and is much more complicated than getting an anorexia sufferer to eat.

It is a complex condition which requires a type of multidisciplinary treatment such as REBT (Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy). This can help to curb the irrational beliefs and self-defeating behaviors that many sufferers have to go through.

4. They have to survive in a calorie counting world.

As well as the images of skinny people being superior, anorexics have to cope with the weight watching police. Not actual officers of course, but calories on every item of food sold are there to remind us not to step out of line.

There is a national obsession with weight. It is high time we changed the emphasis and started to talk about health instead.

5. They may have to analyze their childhood.

There are many types of treatments available for those suffering from anorexia. One popular option is the FPT (Focal Psychodynamic Therapy). The sufferer is helped to identify childhood conflicts in childhood which remained unresolved.

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Once that is done, they are helped to manage stressful situations and negative thinking. Most people are unaware of the effects of a traumatic childhood.

6. They need to get their story out.

If you read Katie Metcalfe’s book, Anorexia – A Stranger in the Family, you will begin to understand the obsessions, and the voices that control an anorexic’s life. It is truly a harrowing story but also one of hope of how Katie overcame her anorexia and fully recovered.

It’s alarming to read how it was only after a heart attack that her doctor started to take notice that something was really wrong. The book also recounts how bullying at school led her to diet and exercise excessively. These are the true stories of the mindset of anorexia sufferers that need to be told again and again.

7. They want control.

Let us imagine that the problems and causes of anorexia are either hidden or denied. They cannot control the loneliness, the insecurity and the low self-esteem. One thing that the sufferer can control is what he or she eats.

The sense of achievement in watching the number of pounds in the scale going down and the perfect image staring back at her in the mirror gives a sense of empowerment. The obsession also drowns all the other, deeper sorrow and grief.

With effective treatment, these sufferers can replace self-deception with new purpose and a will to start living again.

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8. They need the help of their family.

I knew one family who never accepted that their daughter was anorexic. They just buried their heads in the sand but the father had to pay out a fortune to have his daughter’s teeth redone as a result of her gums receding too far back from her teeth. They saw it as another expense.

Thankfully, the daughter has stabilized but not thanks to her family. It is essential that families are involved because they need to address how anorexia is affecting their lives and the life of the sufferer, what they need to know and how they can help.

9. They must learn that self acceptance is key.

An integral part of any therapy program will help guide the sufferer toward self-acceptance. Every person is a complex mix of dimensions and emotions.

Labelling a person as fat or thin is superficial and is rife. The patient learns that their own perception of their body image is a bit distorted, so learning to correct that view is also essential.

10. They will resort to secrecy and deception.

Anorexia sufferers will go to any lengths to hide their weight loss. They may put on extra layers of clothes when they are being weighed. Family members will also be almost forced to be deceptive as they try to add cream and fat to their food so that they will put on weight.

There is no true understanding of how the anorexic feels. There is a very telling line from Hilary Mantel’s story about anorexia in the movie “The Heart Fails Without Warning”where the doctor treating the patient says:

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“When she looks in a mirror, God knows what she sees. You can’t get hold of it, can you, what goes on in that head of hers? She imagines things that aren’t there.”

11. They have an excellent chance of recovery if they have treatment early on.

Many anorexics go on hiding their condition for years. They think they can sort it out themselves. And many families are unaware of the gravity of this illness. These two factors are a deadly combination. When anorexia is discovered early on, then there is an excellent chance of recovery.

They will be getting the support of a psychologist, nutritionist and loved ones as they start to recover. But there are three things for them to consider:

  1. They will need to regain control of healthy eating habits.
  2. They have to learn how to look after their emotional well being.
  3. And above all, they will need to learn to trust their loved ones who are supporting them.

12. They can be treated in a special residential treatment center.

There may be cases where the patient’s family situation or her general health warrants admittance to a specialized clinic. The patient is then assisted by a wide range of experts who work in tandem to ensure that the patient improves in a relaxed and caring setting.

And luckily, some of these centers may be covered by private health insurance.

Let us know in the comments how you helped a loved one to recover from anorexia.

Featured photo credit: Naked skinny woman sitting on a wooden chest via shutterstock.com

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Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Last Updated on April 8, 2020

Why Assuming Positive Intent Is an Amazing Productivity Driver

Why Assuming Positive Intent Is an Amazing Productivity Driver

Assuming positive intent is an important contributor to quality of life.

Most people appreciate the dividends such a mindset produces in the realm of relationships. How can relationships flourish when you don’t assume intentions that may or may not be there? And how their partner can become an easier person to be around as a result of such a shift? Less appreciated in the GTD world, however, is the productivity aspect of this “assume positive intent” perspective.

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Most of us are guilty of letting our minds get distracted, our energy sapped, or our harmony compromised by thinking about what others woulda, coulda, shoulda.  How we got wronged by someone else.  How a friend could have been more respectful.  How a family member could have been less selfish.

However, once we evolve to understanding the folly of this mindset, we feel freer and we become more productive professionally due to the minimization of unhelpful, distracting thoughts.

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The leap happens when we realize two things:

  1. The self serving benefit from giving others the benefit of the doubt.
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Needless to say, this mindset does not mean that we ought to not confront people that are creating havoc in our world.  There are times when we need to call someone out for inflicting harm in our personal lives or the lives of others.

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Indra Nooyi, Chairman and CEO of Pepsi, says it best in an interview with Fortune magazine:

My father was an absolutely wonderful human being. From ecent emailhim I learned to always assume positive intent. Whatever anybody says or does, assume positive intent. You will be amazed at how your whole approach to a person or problem becomes very different. When you assume negative intent, you’re angry. If you take away that anger and assume positive intent, you will be amazed. Your emotional quotient goes up because you are no longer almost random in your response. You don’t get defensive. You don’t scream. You are trying to understand and listen because at your basic core you are saying, ‘Maybe they are saying something to me that I’m not hearing.’ So ‘assume positive intent’ has been a huge piece of advice for me.

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In business, sometimes in the heat of the moment, people say things. You can either misconstrue what they’re saying and assume they are trying to put you down, or you can say, ‘Wait a minute. Let me really get behind what they are saying to understand whether they’re reacting because they’re hurt, upset, confused, or they don’t understand what it is I’ve asked them to do.’ If you react from a negative perspective – because you didn’t like the way they reacted – then it just becomes two negatives fighting each other. But when you assume positive intent, I think often what happens is the other person says, ‘Hey, wait a minute, maybe I’m wrong in reacting the way I do because this person is really making an effort.

“Assume positive intent” is definitely a top quality of life’s best practice among the people I have met so far. The reasons are obvious. It will make you feel better, your relationships will thrive and it’s an approach more greatly aligned with reality.  But less understood is how such a shift in mindset brings your professional game to a different level.

Not only does such a shift make you more likable to your colleagues, but it also unleashes your talents further through a more focused, less distracted mind.

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