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Gina P
Gina P, LCSW
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 175
Experience:  MSW, LCSW, PIP
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I am the leader of a fibromyalgia support group. Afew months

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I am the leader of a fibromyalgia support group. Afew months ago a young woman joined. She has denied ED to the group, but admitted it to 2 members. I am concerned that we may be unwittingly reinforcing her decling condition. Every time she inform of a health problem, me and the others respond immediately expressing our concerns. She is 5'10" and weighs around 70 lbs. - she's lost weight since she joined. We want to do the right thing, but wonder if we are making things worse. What should I/we do? ~k
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Gina P replied 4 years ago.

Hi, An eaing disorder is very much like an addiction, in that there is much denial, hiding behaviors, and sometimes may need confrontation. It is also usually an attention seeking type of behavior. Since she is already so small, her health is probaly suffering immensely. If you have a good therapeutic relationship with her, I would suggest you and at least one other member discuss your concerns with her in a private meeting, maybe after group one night. Of course i am sure you already know to use lots of "I" statements, and express your concerns for her in a calm, rational, but firm manner. You may want to include her family members, if this is possible without violating confidentiality.

I am including a web address with links for more information.

www.eatingdisorderexpert.co.uk

This website has some information on how to confront and links to other websites.

Thank you for being concerned enough about your friend to address this issue with her.

Please let me know if you have further questions. Gina

Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Our group is made of all people who are ill. There are no professionals. My role is to organize meetings, and I provide no therapy. I do not feel that Becky is very close to anyone. Other than telling us about her medical issues - heart, digestive issues - we know nothing about her. When we suggest activities, such as seeing a movie, she declines. B/c annorexics do desire attention, I am wondering if all of the attn she is getting via her emails is counterproductive. Is there a more appropriate way we should react? Like simply briefly say, wow, you better follow up with your doctor! She never attends mtgs. She was inviting people to meet her for meals, but she displayed such ytpical ED behaivors that we are discouraging those mtgs. I am not comfortable dealing with her, b/c I am just a lay person who has another illness. None of us are familiar w/ED. We are worried about being enablers. It is very painful seeing and hearing about her decline. She does talk about her doc and acts as if they are all incompetant, esp those who think she has an ED. What is the best reponse to her w/o getting more involved or being enablers? She only joined our group this fall.
Expert:  Gina P replied 4 years ago.

Oh, I see. It is very difficult situation. Yes, a brief acknowledgement of the medical issues, and then a change of subject. Of course, if she is used to getting this attention, you may have to retrain her into accepting a change of subject.

I don't know how your group is facilitated, or if this is a possibility, but one technique to change focus is to have members talk about something that is going right, rather than wrong. Staying positive is important for us all.

As for the emails, simple questions to her such as "how are you addressing your health issues" or "what is the solution for this problem" may help her take some responsibility for herself.

I think if you encourage her to spend less time focused on her ailments and more time on the solution, she will either join the discussion or leave and find another group who plays into her self-pitying behaviors.

As for the enabling behaviors, I would limit any emails that give attention to her eating disorder. If your group focus is fibromyalgia, you may suggest that everyone stay focused on this topic.

 

I would not spend a lot of time with this issue. You are working on getting yourself healthy, as are the other members of the group. This one appears to be trying to remain unhealthy, and is defocusing you from your own goals.

 

She will remain sick for as long as she wants. Do not accept responsibility for her behaviors, and do not play into her self pity. Please let me know if you have further quesions.

Gina P, LCSW
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 175
Experience: MSW, LCSW, PIP
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