I have received a number of emails asking about friends and family who clearly have an eating disorder, even a severe one, but they continue to refuse care. While each case clearly has some different dimensions, in my experience some of the following things can help:
- They need to be evaluated by a GP.
- This is to ascertain their physical health and is very important. Anorexia is the most fatal per capita of psychiatric disorders. Bulimia nervosa can be extremely dangerous especially to the heart because of low potassium levels.
- Wherever possible, the family needs to be involved.
- Family are ultimately the most influential people in most people’s lives and therefore have the most influence in changing a person’s mind about seeking and engaging in treatment.
- An intervention can help.
- Interventions may start by getting all of the people who care about the person with the eating disorder to come together to persuade the person to seek treatment. Try to let them know your fears for their safety, try to reason with them, and try to encourage them in a way that they will respond to best.
- In cases where there is extreme resistance to treatment, the mental health act can be used. This mandates the person to intensive, inpatient care for their problems.
These are just general guidelines and each case will require something slightly different to get through to your loved one how important it is that they find the treatment that they require.
Please let us know your thoughts and other suggestions for engaging people in much needed treatment.