Family Role in Bulimia Recovery
Families can help support a family member who is suffering from bulimia, but the family cannot take on the entire responsibility of eating disorder treatment. I believe it is unfair and unreasonable to expect family members to become qualified treatment providers. They can love, help, support and encourage, but the best of families will stagger under expectation that family members alone can bring healing to the bulimic person in their midst.
An article from Women's Health about Long Term Effects of Bulimia Nervosa states:
"Home and family support are proven to be the best way of treating this condition."
The article does not state where theses proofs can be found.
In my opinion statements like this put a burden of guilt and feelings of helplessness on families and people with eating disorders who do not understand bulimia or what the person with bulimia needs for effective recovery work. The article describes the dire consequences of untreated long term bulimia. To say that the family alone is responsible for the bulimic person's recovery implies that these dire results could be avoided if the family attended to the bulimic person with undefined methods of treatment at home.
Certainly an informed, caring and supportive family can play an important part in a person's recovery. But the best and most well intentioned families can play a part in recovery, not carry the entire responsibility. The person with bulimia and their family can have access to effective treatment far beyond the limits of what a family can provide. This article ignores a vast recovery community made up of professionals and lay people who dedicate their lives to bulimia treatment and recovery.
Bulimia Recovery and Treatment Resources:
mental health professionals in private pratice specializing in eating disorder treatment;
in-patient and out-patient clinics for eating disorder patients
nutritionists specializing in eating disorders
endocrinologists specializing in eating disorders
Overeaters Anonymous 12 step program
eating disorder support groups
positive and helpful websites with discussion forums
And many more resources exist that do not focus directly on eating disorder treatment but can be very helpful in supporting recovery:
e.g. classes and activities that encourage creativity; spiritual programs and activitites that are in harmony with the individual's beliefs and inner sense of life; volunteer programs that enhance a person's sense of self worth.
Families suffer when a loved one suffers. Families do not need to carry a burden of guilt because family members are not treatment specialists.
Families need support and education about eating disorders. Families need to know what they can and cannot do to help. Then their loving energy can support the bulimic person as she (or he) works toward recovery using a wide array of treatment providers and resources geared to the specific needs of bulimia healing.