Families and support people play a crucial role in the care, support and recovery of people experiencing an eating disorder. A carer or support can be a parent, partner, friend, sibling, grandparent, child, grandchild, relative, neighbour, colleague or any other person caring for or supporting someone living with an eating disorder.
Carers and supports can contribute to an effective collaborative care approach in three key areas:
Supporting engagement with treatment: Some people experiencing an eating disorder may be reluctant to seek help due to the nature of the eating disorder. Families and supports play a vital role in influencing help seeking, raising awareness of eating disorder behaviours, and supporting recognition of stages in recovery.
Supporting implementation of treatment strategies and approaches: The family and/or support network are integral members of the care team. They may support the person to implement behavioural changes throughout treatment, such as sitting with the person at mealtimes and helping them cope with distress.
Supporting recovery: Recovery takes time and families and supports have a key role to play in supporting a person throughout their recovery journey.
Supporting and caring for a loved one experiencing an eating disorder can be challenging and distressing for family and supports. This page provides avenues for support for families and supports of people with lived experience of an eating disorder. These include services that provide telephone, online, and/or face-to-face to support, as well as links to resources.
Eating disorders organisations and support services
The Butterfly Foundation is the national charity for all Australians impacted by eating disorders and body image issues, and for the families, friends and communities who support them. Butterfly have a national Helpline which provides information, referrals, and brief counselling for people experiencing an eating disorder, disordered eating and/or body image concerns as well as family and supports. Free and confidential support is available via phone, email and online chat for anyone in Australia affected by an eating disorder or body image issue, including family and supports. Call 1800 33 4673 (1800 ED HOPE), and access Butterfly’s online support via their website.
Butterfly also facilitate online support groups for people who are supporting someone with an eating disorder. More information here.
Eating Disorders Families Australia (EDFA)
EDFA is a national not-for-profit run by carers with lived experience, connecting, supporting and educating families and carers of people with eating disorders. EDFA runs carer support groups and regular education and information webinars. Access their website here.
Eating Disorders Victoria (EDV)
EDV is a not-for-profit organisation providing support services, information and guidance to people impacted by eating disorders in Victoria. Services include a telephone helpline, support groups, online chat room and discussion board, and education and support workshops for people experiencing eating disorders, and family and supports. Access their website here.
Eating Disorders Queensland (EDQ)
EDQ is a not-for-profit providing integrated eating disorder support services and resources to people living in Queensland who are living with and/or recovering from an eating disorder and their families and supports. Access their website here.
Families Empowered and Supporting Treatment for Eating Disorders (F.E.A.S.T.)
F.E.A.S.T. is a nonprofit global community of parents of someone who has or is currently experiencing an eating disorder, providing support to parents and caregivers of people with eating disorders. The website includes information and resources about eating disorders and treatment options, an online caregivers forum, online stories and letters, weblinks to parent blogs, and other resources. Access their website here.
We have collated a list of resources for families and supports of people with lived experience of an eating disorder. These resources include online materials, tools, and programs. Click here to access the full list of resources.
You can also find a booklet and infographic for families and supports in the side boxes of this page.
Seeking professional help
Your GP is a good ‘first base’ to talk to about your concerns and can refer the person you care for to a practitioner with specific knowledge in eating disorders. Your GP can help you to connect with the right care team for the person you are supporting.
Remember that it may take time to find the right treatment and the right therapist to meet the needs of the person you care about. Everyone responds differently to different types of treatment and the doctor or specialist will advise you on which treatment they feel may be most beneficial. The best type of treatment is one that is focused on the needs of the person experiencing an eating disorder and includes their family or circle of support within care planning.