So, you’re living with a roommate who has an eating disorder and you don’t know what to do. Well, first of all, give yourself on the back because you’re doing a great job. Finding out more about people with eating disorders to help your roommate shows them that you care. Your involvement also indicates that you understand how your roommate must be feeling and what they might be going through emotionally. But before we go any further, there are a few things you should know about people suffering from eating disorders.
What is an eating disorder?
You will hear from most people that an eating disorder is not a disorder. Or that it’s just about losing weight and looking good. But the fact is that every person has a deeply unique experience when it comes to their eating disorder (ED). Now that you live with a roommate who has an eating disorder, you should be sensitive about how you speak of their illness. Remember also the fact that the person suffering from this doesn’t have a choice; it’s a mental illness that needs diagnosis and medical care. If you or your roommate are suffering from ED, know that it’s nothing to be ashamed about, seek medical help, and let someone know (someone you trust) about how you feel. With the right support from family and friends, it is possible to come out of this experience fully recovered.
“I don’t think people realize, when they’re just getting started on an eating disorder or even when they’re in the grip of one, that it is not something that you just “get over.” For the vast majority of eating-disordered people, it is something that will haunt you for the rest of your life. You may change your behavior, change your beliefs about yourself and your body, give up that particular way of coping in the world. You may learn, as I have, that you would rather be a human than a human’s thin shell. You may get well. But you never forget.”― Marya Hornbacher, Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia
Here are a few things to keep in mind if you’re living with someone with an eating disorder:
- Take time to listen to them, and avoid giving advice or criticism
Just because your roommate has an eating disorder, doesn’t mean you get to lecture them. This can be tough as you might disagree with their life choices and eating habits. But, keep in mind that you don’t need to know all the answers. Ensuring that they know that you are there for them is essential. So that your roommate doesn’t feel the need to reject your help, friendship, or support.
- Build up their self-esteem
Let them know they are a great person and that you’re happy to have them in your life. They might not want to go out or join in with regular activities, but you should keep stretching your extended hand of care and love. They will still appreciate being asked to join in social events. Even if they do not accept, it will make them feel valued as a person. That’s what living with a roommate is all about- supporting each other in their time of need.
How are eating disorders treated?
Eating disorder treatments are varied depending on the exact nature of the eating disorder. Treatment usually involves talking/counseling therapy, to improve the patient’s relationship with food and get to the root of the disorder. If your roommate has an eating disorder, it would be a good idea to take them to a therapist first.
Prescriptions hover around a combination of psychotherapy, nutrition education, medical monitoring, and sometimes medications. It also involves addressing other allied health problems that could be serious or even life-threatening if they go untreated for long. Your roommate could need hospitalization if the disorder does not improve with standard treatment or causes more extreme health problems.
The therapist will encourage your roommate to talk about the emotional issues that led to their eating disorder. They will also learn healthier ways to cope with these feelings. So, you might have to monitor your roommate’s self-help program. Since the treatment takes place over weeks, it provides time for your roommate to make changes slowly. An early start ensures better chances of a good recovery. Find out more about eating disorder services.
Should your roommate go to the hospital?
If your roommate has an eating disorder, they might need hospitalization. But that’s only reserved for extreme cases. However, most patients get treated as outpatients, and they are required to visit the hospital one day a week. Keep in mind, that the frequency of hospital visits depends on the severity of the case.
Should you visit your roommate in the hospital?
The prime goal is to let them know you’re thinking of them and would like to visit them. So, visitations will depend on the treatment center rules and what your roommate wants. If visits are not possible, you can always call, text, or leave a voice note letting them know you’re still there to support them.
Is it okay to force my roommate to get help with an eating disorder?
If your roommate has an eating disorder, it’s possible they’ve lost a lot of weight. If that’s the case, they are in danger of starving themselves and developing severe complications. It’s possible that they may not be able to think clearly because of the lack of food. If this has been going on for too long, they might even require life-saving treatment. If you think this might be happening, you should reach out for medical help ASAP!
For more help
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