National Eating Disorders Association

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worried relative

I am a worried relative of a beautiful 30-year-old niece who has either anorexia or bulimia and is in denial. Her husband may be in denial because he is scared. Her mother feels lost as she is under threat of being locked out if she seeks to get help. What can we do?

This situation is not uncommon

I'm so glad you came on here to talk about this. Unfortunately, this situation is all too common in the world of eating disorders - denial, fear and fighting among loved ones happens so often when one has to approach someone with an eating disorder. She is very lucky to have you, her mother and her husband to love her and support her. She is going to need that. (It's also not unusual for the husband to be in denial out of fear).

It's important to approach your niece lovingly, gently and with support, even if your first reaction may be one of frustration, anger and misunderstanding. Having an eating disorder is not a choice and is not about vanity (although it sounds like you already understand all this).

Here is a Parent Toolkit that may be helpful to all of you in your quest to get your niece help:

And here are tips on how to talk to a loved one with an eating disorder:

Since your niece is 30, you can't force her into treatment, so I also suggest you call the NEDA helpline and talk about your options regarding this. 1-800-931-2237, M-F EST. The volunteers can talk to you about getting help for someone over the age of 18.

The important thing to remember here is that your niece needs your love and support! Since you came on here for help, I can tell she has that in you. Let me know if the above links were helpful.