An Eating Disorder- What happens now?

When you realize that someone you love may be struggling with anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa, naturally you want to know more about it. And because you care, you also want to understand what they are experiencing so that you can be as supportive as you can throughout their recovery.

You may already know that anorexia and bulimia are complex and confusing illnesses. Now that you are past the initial shock of discovery, you may be experiencing feelings of anxiety, guilt, anger, and frustration-all understandable reactions. Seeing a loved one suffer from an eating disorder is very frightening and difficult. We know it's not easy.

What happens now? First, understand that the illness did not develop overnight, and that recovery will not happen overnight. Second, know that there is reason to have hope. With dedication to treatment, recovery is attainable.

Today We Know Much More

When singer Karen Carpenter died of anorexia, it was at a time when many doctors lacked the awareness and education needed to diagnose and treat victims of eating disorders. Today we know much more about these illnesses-what causes them, how to recognize the symptoms earlier, and the steps required for recovery.

Even though you may find it difficult to understand, your loved one finds security in their eating disorder. To its victims, the illness is a powerful and misguided coping mechanism. But with treatment, enough time, and lots of love, you can look forward with hope to a day when your loved one will likely be able to break the stranglehold of this illness.

You can play a critically important role in the recovery process. Your knowledge-based appropriate actions and support can be a tremendous source of strength and comfort to your loved one.

Ten Ways You Can Help

Click the (+) next to each topic to learn more.


Surviving An Eating Disorder: Strategies for Families and Friends, Michelle Seigel Ph.D., Judith Brisman Ph.D., and Margot Weinshel Ph.D., Harper Row, New York, 1997.

The Secret Language of Eating Disorders, Peggy Claude-Pierre, Times Books/Random House, New York, 1997.

The Monster Within: Overcoming Bulimia,  Cynthia Joye Rowland, Baker Books, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1984.

Hunger Pains,  Mary Pipher Ph.D., Random House, Ballantine Books, New York, 1997.

Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls, Mary Pipher Ph.D., Random House, Ballantine Books, New York, 1994.

Breaking the Cycle of Compulsive Behavior, Marth Nibley Beck and John C. Beck, Deseret Book Co., Salt Lake City, 1990.

Shame and Grace: Healing the Shame We Don't Deserve,  Lewis B. Smedes, Harper/Collins, New York, 1993.

The Shelter of Each Other: Rebuilding Our Families, Mary Pipher, Ph.D., Ballantine Books, New York, 1996.

Raising Self-Reliant Children in a Self-Indulgent World,  H. Stephen Glenn and Jane Nelsen, Ed.D., Prima Publishing and Communications, Rocklin, California, 1989.

Changing for Good, James O. Prochaka Ph.D., John C. Norcross Ph.D., Carlo C. Dielemente Ph.D., Avon Books, New York, 1994.

Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, Susan Jeffers Ph.D., Faucett Columbia Books/Ballantine Books, New York, 1987.


Center for Change

Eating Disorder Awareness Week

Foundation for Change

Gurze Books

National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA)

National Institute of Mental Health

Courtesy of Center for Change, Orem, Utah