When someone struggles with an eating disorder, it impacts the entire family.
About Rosewood’s Family Program
An eating disorder is a ‘family illness’. We say this not to point blame at any particular family member for the emergence of an eating disorder, but to emphasize that when someone within the household struggles with an eating disorder, the entire family is impacted. The ED may lead to issues with family time management, relationship strain, and a feeling of walking on eggshells. Just as the eating disorder is not limited to the ‘identified patient’, the recovery process should not be limited to the individual either.
At Rosewood, we understand that family involvement is crucial to the healing and recovery process. At every level of care clients participate in programs designed to address the family system and communication differences among family members.
Family Week at Rosewood
As part of our commitment to family healing, Rosewood also offers ‘family week.’ During family week, Rosewood’s compassionate clinical and medical staff strive to create a safe, intimate environment that is conducive to honest, loving communication. Within this nurturing environment, residents, families and loved ones are introduced to the tools they need to return home with renewed clarity, and confidence to live healthy, productive lives. This important treatment modality is designed to assist patients and their family members in becoming more aware of the dynamics of eating disorders operating within a family system. One of the goals of Rosewood’s Family Week Program is to provide support and education to family members. Family members walk into family week doors willing and ready to be open, learn, and share their story. Family members express “relief” knowing that they are not the only ones struggling with this disease, the family member, and the lies and manipulation of the disease.
The majority of the program focuses on the family itself – family dynamics, family roles, family rules, and family communication. The week also includes homework assignments for patients and the family members. In the process, Family Week participants learn to:
- Share thoughts and feelings with each other in a non-judgmental way.
- Understand how family systems operate, particularly in relation to an eating disorder.
- See how eating disorders, addictions, and other disorders negatively impact communication.
Our experience shows that when families work together in support of one another, dysfunctional patterns and cycles can be broken and inter-generational patterns can be arrested. Individual family members are supported in making decisions on how to change these patterns into healthier ways of interaction. You will leave the program with tools to establish healthier family interactions.
“Rosewood’s Family Week Program not only touches the patients and family members but also touches me, personally. I am fortunate in this position as family therapist to witness and take part in growth, forgiveness, and the recovery journey every week.”~Billie Church, MC, LPC, Family Therapist
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Navigating the Emotional Landscape
As a person with an eating disorder, you may have given some thought to how it affects your family members. As a family member of someone struggling with an eating disorder, you are probably experiencing a flood of emotions of your own.
While everyone’s experience is different, shaped by complex and unique family dynamics, it helps to be aware of some common emotional patterns that can occur in a patient and their family members as they start to accept and understand the process of treatment and recovery.
As a family member, you’ll experience many intense emotions related to your loved one’s treatment. If you ever need help sorting through any of these emotions, you can call us anytime to talk them through with a trained, compassionate counselor. You’re welcome to contact us as often you you wish. It’s part of the treatment process.
To learn more about how to help a loved one, download the following handout:
Free Online Eating Disorder Assessments
Eating disorders affect more than individuals—they affect whole families. If you think someone you know might be struggling with an eating disorder, it helps to have some clarity. Rosewood offers free online assessments that can help you figure out if an eating disorder is involved and what next steps, if any, to take.
The assessments can be taken by a friend or relative or by the person who’s struggling. The process is completely confidential, non-judgmental and pressure-free. Just choose the assessment type below and answer the questions honestly and completely.
Minors: If you are under 18 years of age you must complete this form with the help of a parent, and your parent must be involved in all aspects of the communication about your online assessment.
- FREE Online Eating Disorder Assessment
- FREE Online Anorexia Nervosa Assessment
- FREE Online Bulimia Nervosa Assessment
- FREE Online Binge Eating Disorder Assessment
One of our compassionate intake specialists will review your responses and contact you to discuss your results in complete confidence.
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Is a Family Member Struggling with an Eating Disorder?
People develop eating disorders for a wide range of reasons, and they often struggle with related, but separate, underlying co-disorders like trauma, addiction and depression. Many younger patients develop an eating disorder because it gives them a sense of control over difficult events in their lives. These might include parents divorcing, relocation and other family struggles. Another common ED characteristic is a sense of shame. On some level, patients sense their behavior may be viewed by others as wrong, so they often go to great lengths to hide it.
Some general observable characteristics of people with eating disorder include:
- Obsession with weight, body image, eating or eating rituals
- The person’s relationship to food or their body interferes with work, school, relationships or overall health
- Dramatic changes in weight, exercise behaviors or eating patterns
Specific signs of ED in a family member include:
- Continually on a diet, even if already slim
- Eats secretly or alone, especially at night
- Gains or loses weight quickly and unexpectedly
- Makes excuses to avoid eating
- Obsessed with exercise
- Overly concerned with weight or body shape
- Overuses laxatives or diet pills
- Preoccupied with food or caloric intake
- Secretly stores food
- Stays away from social situations involving eating
- Visits a bathroom immediate following meals
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Should You Intervene?
If you’re concerned that a family member has an eating disorder, we know it’s a difficult situation to confront. We can help you plan and conduct an eating disorder intervention in a way that leads to positive change for every member of your family.
If you decide to ask the family member directly, consider these suggestions for focusing the conversation and setting a loving and supportive tone:
- Choose an environment that’s protected and private, so the family member can feel safe.
- It’s important to ask gently, without being demeaning, angry or accusatory. On first discovery, people with an ED are often frightened, confused and withdrawn.
- Talk about the behaviors you have observed in non-judgmental, non-accusatory terms. Explain that you’re concerned about the family member’s health.
- Hear the family member out, even if they deny any problem, and be ready to offer next steps.
- If the family member resists, do not argue; you can revisit the conversation after some reflection and cooling-off.
- Prepare in advance how you will respond if the family member confirms they’re struggling with an eating disorder.
- Remember to remain calm, supportive, reassuring. There are physical, psychological and emotional processes at work, and a person with an eating disorder can’t just “snap out of it.”
- Ask how you may help, and assure the family member that with proper medical and eating disorder intervention everything will be OK. Because it will.
Steering someone toward treatment is an emotional process, and we can help guide you through it. Call us now at (800) 845-2211. Compassionate staff is available 24/7 to answer your questions, in complete confidence.