Who can help someone with anorexia

How an outsider should deal with an eating disorder

Hammer finds the whole thing more complicated when a distant acquaintance becomes aware of severe weight loss - for example through pictures on social media. Anyone who suspects this should save on praise, not distribute likes and write no comments. Assessing the appearance of an eating disorder can be damaging in any direction. "Positive feedback that relates to the external appearance of an affected person usually exacerbates the eating disorder," warns Hammer.

Anyone who is really worried should rather make direct contact with the person concerned and ask for a meeting, for example. If necessary, also under a pretext: because you haven't seen each other for a long time, for example. “When it comes to this subject, you should definitely not fall in with the door. If there is no close connection, it would therefore be advisable, as an outsider, to first exchange ideas with people who are closer to the person concerned. They can probably approach the topic more cautiously, ”explains Hammer.

It is clear to her that the other people of people suffering from eating disorders are also affected by the effects of the eating disorder: "The pressure of suffering felt by those outside and, above all, by those close to the person affected, is often unbearable."

At ANAD, she not only works with patients, but also with parents, siblings and friends of those affected. She, too, wants to encourage Hammer to get professional help if she is too affected by the situation - even if the person concerned may not be ready to take this step himself.

"There is nothing worse than seeing your child starve to death and standing by helplessly"

Family involvement is particularly important with young patients. They usually still live at home - the eating disorder is always at the table. “How can I help my child, my brother, my sister?” - The next of kin cannot escape this question. It imposes itself several times a day with the observation that someone you especially love cannot bring himself to eat again - and it eats away at those who cannot find an answer to it. Hammer feels the same way: "There is nothing worse than seeing your child starve to death and standing by helplessly," she says.

The eating disorder is also often a major burden for siblings. Especially when they are very young. After all, you would still have to rely heavily on the parents' attention yourself, while their main focus is on the fight against the eating disorder.

For this reason, ANAD offers siblings of those affected between the ages of ten and 21 a free consultation hour. “Most of them come to us with a lot of questions,” says Hammer. “Because often they are not really initiated into what is happening with their brother or sister. Of course we will try to answer these questions. We also tell the siblings that it's okay to get their parents' attention and say, 'Hey, I'm still here!' "

When eating, roommates should not act according to the special wishes of the sick person

According to Hammer, the fact that relatives often take on a lot of responsibility and absolutely want to help harbors a risk: "The relatives let themselves be whirled in, aim everything towards healing, everything so that the person affected finally eats and then keeps the food in the body."

That is of course well meant and more than understandable. However, they sometimes even make it easier for those affected to maintain their compulsive eating behavior. When it comes to eating, many families ultimately only orient themselves to the wishes of the eating disordered family member: It determines when to eat, how and what to cook.

This behavior communicates that the diet is okay and even that the disorder is so powerful that the whole family must submit to it. In order to make it clear that the eating disorder should not determine the life of everyone else, Hammer advises that those affected be asked to prepare their own portion if they have extra wishes. Even in shared apartments in which people usually cook together, one should clearly distinguish oneself from the eating disorder of the roommate.

"It is never good to speak too much against the eating disorder."

Because the eating disorder does not appear to be an enemy of the sick, Hammer also says: “It is never good to speak too much against the eating disorder. A discussion about it should be avoided as far as possible. You can talk about it, of course, but then you should use a different tone and ask, for example, what the eating disorder is like for the person affected, how it all feels adversely affect relationships. "In order to avoid this, it is best for family members to look for activities that they can do with the person concerned that have nothing to do with eating or burning calories."