Good communication is essential for a positive relationship between the carer and the person living with the eating disorder.  The carer has to be mindful of the verbal and non-verbal skills that they use. 

It is widely recognised that words, and they way in which they are spoken, can affect the way in which people react. This is equally applied to people with an eating disorder.   

Trigger Words

Trigger words can pose devastating problems for carers. It is impossible to know which words trigger disordered eating behaviour - but it is true to say that such words will be found out by trial and error. 

By considering some of the factors that contribute to the development of an eating disorder, common sense will help in steering clear of such words.

For example, it is well documented that low self-esteem is a contributory factor - therefore, reference to someone's weight should be avoided.   

Eating disorder sufferers are known to think in black and white. This way of thinking results in the sufferers assuming negative thoughts of themselves if they hear something which they can associate with negative experiences.  

I- Statements

Eating disorders can make the individual adopt different characteristics at times when it suits, i.e. moodiness. To avoid uneasy and unhelpful situations use 'I' statements instead of 'you' statements.  

The use of I-statements, which include the specific things that the person has done or said, will diffuse the possibilities of conflict; they will allow concern to be expressed without the person with the eating disorder becoming defensive or argumentative.

For example:

Do not say, "you're far too thin." This comment could provoke an argument or denial.

Instead, you could say, "I'm worried that you have lost a lot of weight in a short amount of time." This comment emphasises your feelings which cannot be argued with, thereby provoking a more receptive response.