Families and the Environment in Eating Disorders

Eating disorders are serious psychological disorders that affect all aspects of the affected person’s life. While the relationship with food is the most visible, it is only the tip of the iceberg. Its causes are many and varied, but there is always one common denominator: low self-esteem.

It is estimated that there are more than 70 million people worldwide affected by this type of disorder. When we talk about this number, we don’t count on relatives and the environment, who also suffer from day to day indirectly from ADD.

    The relationship between eating disorders and family

    If we look back the role of the family in the treatment of ADD it has evolved over time.

    In the first treatments applied (before the 1970s), the family was excluded because it was considered a causative factor or an important part of the disorder. In this way, the person suffering from the disease was isolated, understanding that in this way he would improve.

    However, in the late 1970s, authors like Minuchin or Palazzoli begin to realize that this separation is not beneficial, so they begin to apply family therapy..

    Also psychology has been intended to identify a “profile of the TCA family” that is repeated from case to case. This is not entirely possible, as previously indicated, this disorder responds to a multicausal etiology.

    Currently, the role of families in treatment is increasingly taken into account. From my point of view, it is essential that we have the relatives of the patient as active agents in the therapeutic process.

    How do families get to the clinic?

    In general, his psychological state is as follows:

    Disoriented and lost

    They don’t understand what is going on or how they got to this situation. Many times they are not aware of what is going on, others have suspected something was going on but did not know what or the seriousness of the matter. Some even deny the problem.

    Scared and anxious

    By not being in control, they feel bad.


    Many times, loved ones feel guilty about their loved one’s situation.

    With the role of parents blurred

    They have lost the role of parents or do not know how to exercise. Sometimes the situation leads them to become “cops or detectives” trying to search for wrappers or leftover food in their child’s room, or eavesdropping behind the bathroom door.

    What can we do for families?

    Some recommendations to follow in front of relatives of people with ADD are as follows.

    1. Listen

    Give them a space where they can express themselves. Maybe during the consultation it is the first time that they can express everything they are feeling because they may have already hidden it or seen it as a taboo.

    2. Inform

    Give them information about the status of their loved one, About the disease you have, what are the symptoms and prognosis.

    3. Support them

    It is important that they find support from the psychologist. It is essential that we help them to let go of the guilt they feel, focus on the difference between guilt and responsibility.

    4. Educational tools

    Provide the necessary day-to-day direction. It is important to work with them assertively so that they can have good communication at home.

    5. Encourage them to take over the role of peers

    On the one hand, they must set the necessary limits proportionate to the situation and age of their parent. And on the other, it is important that they regain the relationship they had before the disease was established.

    6. Take care of the caregiver

    TCA cannot dominate for life. They will have to take care of themselves and take care of themselves, have time for themselves and their hobbies.

    7. Motivate and encourage your patience

    Treating ADD is complicated and ups and downs are common, So that we can help them prepare.

    Levels of intervention

    According to Walter Vandereycken and colleagues, there are four levels of psychological intervention to consider.

    • Educational advice and advice: psychoeducation of loved ones on what ADD is and how to cope with it.
    • Family therapy: therapy with all members of the family. Sometimes the psychologist has to play the role of mediator.

    • Couple therapy: in case of crisis.
    • Individual therapy for loved ones: in these cases, gravity demands it.

    In short, it is necessary to see in the close relations and the environment of the allies in the treatment of the ATT. This way we will all row in the same direction to get a better evolution and better prognosis from your loved one.

    Author: Laura Martín Ànec, general health psychologist, member of the Matía Psychology Center and the Online Therapy Center.

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