If you have an eating disorder, you may think that it only affects you and your health. If you know someone that has one, you may know that this is simply not true. Eating disorders are rarely about food, as a person uses that food (or a lack there of) as a means of control. The reasons people develop eating disorders are not actually widely known, with each person having their own reasons that they may not fully understand themselves. Whatever the case, make no mistake about it – eating disorder effects go further than the person with the disorder.
Eating disorder effects can spread through the family with lightening speed. One of the first people that it affects is Mom. The mother always feels as if she did something to cause her daughter (or in some cases, son) to feel that they are too fat or that they are not good enough in some way. Mom’s guilt can eat her up inside, even though she may have nothing to do with the reason why the child is suffering through an eating disorder. The child may never have a chance at recovery until Mom faces the guilt of it (deserved or not) and then moves past it.
Dad can often feel confused. He may feel that he has no true understanding of his children when he finds that logic does not work. You can not tell a child with an eating disorder to eat and expect them to follow that directive. It is not about eating and often the person suffering from eating disorder effects has no idea how to stop the impulsive thoughts and feelings that make them feel like they do. Dad ends up feeling pretty angry, but also pretty helpless. That can lead to some dads questioning everything they did as a parent.
The eating disorder effects on siblings of those with the disorders are often the worst. Those children feel angry, at times, because they don’t understand why their sister or brother is hurting him or herself. They are also left out of the mix many times because mom and dad have to spend so much time focusing on the child that has the eating disorder. They can turn angry towards their sibling and only wish to have a normal life like everyone else. They are often forgotten by their parents to the point where they begin to lash out at everyone.
When a family is suffering through eating disorder effects, it can feel like the entire family is falling apart. At times, the best thing to do, even though it does not feel like it, is to send the sick child away for inpatient treatment so that the rest of the family can come back together while the other child is trying to get help. If the child refuses, or is old enough to move away, there is nothing much the rest of the family can do other than seek therapy so they can learn to care and help without giving their lives up to an eating disorder that they don’t even have.