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How to Stage an Eating Disorder Intervention

Learn how to stage an eating disorder intervention from Allegra Broft, M.D. in this Howcast video.


Figuring out how to intervene with someone, a loved one, family member, or friend that has an eating disorder can be no easy task and there's no right or wrong formula for exactly how best to go about it.

Intervening with someone who has an eating disorder can in some cases as simple as an acknowledgement between the two of you that there's a problem, and helping the person along in their search trying to enter treatment with a center or a mental health professional. For a person that can acknowledge that there is a struggle with an eating problem, a family member of friend simply providing encouragement and support, sometimes financial support for entering treatment can be all the intervention that's needed.

There can be other cases where an eating problem is very serious and a patient person, a loved one, or friend, or family member is not as able to acknowledge that something is going on. Or maybe they partially acknowledge that something is going on but they think that they can take care of it on their own. And there it can be harder to know exactly how to intervene. For adolescents and kids, folks under the age of 18, parents can take an important role in intervening and you know because of just the fact that folks under 18 are minors. Parents can take a very strong role in insisting that their kids and adolescents get into treatment. Parents under the age of 18 and certainly in the New York State actually have the legal right to sign their child or adolescent into the hospital. If you get them treatment even if they don't, the child themselves, does not want to get treatment. But for folks over the age of 18, they're adults. Parents don't necessarily have the right to do that. There are certain cases in which a person with an eating disorder can be so severely ill that intervening via the route of a psychiatrist or other health professional who sees a patient, realizes that the person is in such imminent risk of danger to themselves or just someone else. Perhaps their health is so severe that the doctor feels that they may be at risk of sudden death within the next day or week.

If that type of case is apparent, if someone else in the family is able to give that type of history there are times when a person with an eating disorder can actually be sent to a hospital against their will, but these are obviously ethically difficult situations; it's sometimes hard to know where the line is in taking away someone's autonomy that way. Yet it can be in the best interest of the patient to get them into the hospital for at least a short period of time while their medical health can be stabilized. Even if they don't have the insight to embrace all the steps needed for treatment, and change, and recovery. If you are the family member of a friend or a loved one that is struggling with an eating problem and maybe they're not fully receptive of help and your not sure about how to go about intervening one thing that you can do is seek out your own guidance. Seek out the help of a family therapist or individual counselor that can give individual advice tailored to your particular situation and perhaps with the specifics of the person suffering in mind to figure out the best way that you can be of help to that person.

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