Worried that a loved one has an eating disorder? Kyle Ganson provides some tips for parents, caregivers and friendsCategories: Kyle Ganson
There’s been a significant increase in the number of people seeking help from the National Eating Disorder Information Centre over the past year, with the biggest jump occurring in the 11 to 19 age group, says the Centre’s Outreach and Education Coordinator Ary Maharaj.
Sheena’s Place – an eating disorders support centre in Toronto – has also experienced a rise in demand for virtual programs among adults. Fortunately, there are many online supports and resources now available to individuals who have, or may be developing, eating disorders.
Factor-Inwentash Faculty Assistant Professor Kyle Ganson has over 7 years of post-masters clinical practice experience working with adolescents and adults in a variety of mental health care settings. His clinical experience has largely focused on individuals and families experiencing major mental health concerns, with a particular interest and expertise in eating disorders treatment.
In honour of Eating Disorder Awareness Week (February 1 – 7), he has pulled together some tips for parents, caregivers and friends.
Worried that a loved one has an eating disorder?
- First, observe the eating and exercise behaviours and note any specific patterns that seem curious to you. Don’t make assumptions and don’t jump into the conversation too quickly without the right information.
- Second, when approaching a young person, it is crucial to speak from an “I” place: “I feel concerned about a pattern I’ve observed recently…” This will help prevent the them from going on the defensive. It also shows you are approaching them with loving care and concern.
- Third, ask questions with respectful curiosity: “How have you been feeling lately given the changes from the pandemic?” “How have you felt about your body lately?” “How do you think changing your diet/exercising/using supplements has helped you?” The point here is to get information to understand a bit more what’s going on in their head. This first or second conversation will likely not be the last, so it’s important that you follow up.
- Fourth, based on your conversations and the information gathered, consider whether these behaviours are impacting the social, mental, and physical well-being of the young person. Are they not socializing as much because they are going on longer runs? Has their affect and mood changed in significant ways? Are they more physically and emotionally distant? Have they lost or gained weight recently? If you’re unsure, reach out to NEDIC to get support and guidance.
- Finally, it is crucial to get help as soon as possible if the behaviours are becoming more ingrained and the well-being of the child is suffering. Reach out to their GP or pediatrician and consider meeting with a social worker to start to get help. NEDIC is a great resource here, as well.
- Other things to remember: while not universal, boys may have more difficulty discussing feelings and having insight into their behaviours and body image thoughts. Be patient with them. Also, boys and girls are under enormous stressors socially and are going through a significant developmental period that is marked by notable physical and mental changes. These are all exacerbated by the pandemic. Keep this in the back of your mind as you engage them.
Learn more about Eatings Disorders via the National Eating Disorder Information Centre’s (NEDIC) website. For additional information, connect with NEDIC by phone at 416-340-4156 or toll free at 1-866-NEDIC-20 (1-866-633-4220), or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by its instant chat service.