In the preceding chapters I have described living with an anorexic boy and the effects on the family, and offered some practical tips that you might try when dealing with all the stresses and strains that anorexia has brought into your home. You and your family are probably feeling exhausted and isolated by your son's illness. However much your wider family and friends want to help, they cannot really understand what you as a family are going through if they have no direct experience of anorexia itself. Undoubtedly some of you will have been subjected to well-meaning comments such as:

• He's always been a bit fussy about food hasn't he?

• He's just having typical teenage tantrums.

• Lots of boys go through skinny phases.

These comments might be well-meaning but they can be very upsetting when you know deep down that there is something much more serious wrong with your son. It is at this stage that you might consider seeking outside help from people who have a great deal of experience with eating disorders. Help can come from many sources, but basically comes under two headings:

2. Help from the medical profession.

In this chapter, I describe the self-help options. In Chapters 8 and 9, I describe what the medical profession has to offer.

The Eating Disorder Association (EDA) is the leading charity in the UK offering information, help and support to anyone affected by eating disorders. The EDA offers a range of services, which include:

• telephone helplines

• UK wide network of self-help and support groups, postal, email and telephone contacts

• membership which includes a regular newsletter

• a comprehensive range of information, including leaflets for young people

• lists of specialist treatment centres available around the country

• an annual conference for members to get together and learn about the latest developments.

The EDA website ( contains details of all these services as well as providing a very useful recommended reading list.

The EDA can offer a great deal of support to both the sufferers and carers affected by an eating disorder. Simply by calling the telephone helpline you are making the first step towards self-help. The person at the other end of the line understands what you are going through and can offer a sympathetic ear and many good words of advice. Suddenly you realise that you are not alone!

Self-help can also include joining a support group or communicating with others who have experienced eating disorders by post or email.

At an EDA annual conference in 2001 the benefits of self-help were summarised and included:

• reduction in isolation - a feeling of not being alone

• opportunities for sharing experiences and coping skills

• mutual support - the opportunity for talking to people who have 'been there'

• swapping and learning new, practical ways of dealing with problems

• better understanding of own health concern/social issues

• feeling empowered to take positive steps towards a better health/ social situation

• taking an active role in own health/well-being

• a feeling of being more in control

• increased self-esteem

• increased self-confidence

• alleviation of stress

• reduction in fear and anxiety

• the provision of relevant information and literature

• gaining inspiration and support from others' experience

• alleviation of stress

• an opportunity to give as well as receive help

• increase in social opportunities/social circle

• development of new skills.

These are all fairly compelling reasons why it is well worth contacting a self-help organisation such as the EDA.

As I have already mentioned the EDA offers help and support for both sufferers and carers. It is worth mentioning exactly what they can offer your son as a young sufferer, as well as what they can offer you as a carer.

Breaking Bulimia

Breaking Bulimia

We have all been there: turning to the refrigerator if feeling lonely or bored or indulging in seconds or thirds if strained. But if you suffer from bulimia, the from time to time urge to overeat is more like an obsession.

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