When a loved one is struggling with an eating disorder, it can be tough to know how to help.
In part two of our interview, eating disorder specialist Susan Schulherr shares several ways families and friends can provide support and ways that aren’t just unhelpful but may be harmful to your loved one.
(If you haven’t yet, check out part one on the challenges of ED recovery and what you can do to overcome these obstacles.)
Q: In one of your blog posts, you wrote that it’s best for individuals with eating disorders to avoid asking their support system to become symptom cops. Can you talk more about what a symptom cop is?
A: I consider “symptom cop” behavior to be any attempt on the part of another to control your symptomatic behavior or weight status. Here are some examples:
I can really understand how arrangements like this can seem reasonable when you’re feeling defeated and out of control.
The problem is, whether you ask someone to be your symptom cop or just go along with it when another person steps in, you’re not building the strength and skill you need to manage yourself.
It will prolong your eating disorder and interfere with your sturdy recovery.
Q: If being a symptom cop is unhelpful, how can people best support a loved one through their recovery?
A: Here are just a few ideas, which hopefully will jumpstart your own thinking:
Thanks so much, Susan, for your insight on support!
Also, see what some amazing women who’ve recovered from eating disorders want others to know about support.
Do you have suggestions on how loved ones can provide support? If you’re a woman in recovery from an ED, what would you like loved ones to know?
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Last reviewed: 8 Mar 2011