In theory, support groups sound great, right? In reality, however, I’ve noticed that whenever I make suggestions or referrals for clients and/or families to attend support groups, there is usually a bit of hesitation. Something seems to be standing in the way of actually going, even though everyone knows it’s supposed to be helpful.
The hesitation might be caused by any number of things: fear of the unknown, fear of being judged, or maybe even fear of what you might hear (and what it means for your recovery).
Regardless of what might be holding you back, here are a few great reasons to attend an eating disorder support group:
1. To get more information.
Maybe you have never been in treatment or therapy for an eating disorder before. It could be you aren’t even certain you have an eating disorder, but you would like more information to know for sure. Maybe you’re worried about how your body looks, or behaviors like over-exercising. It’s possible even a loved one has pointed out some of their concerns, such as a spouse noticing significant weight loss.
A support group is a great place to get additional info and insight for free – without having to sign up for a treatment group or therapy. You will hear what other participants have to say about their own experiences. And the facilitator, whether an eating disorder professional (often a therapist or dietitian) or not, will most likely have access to additional resources.
2. To not feel so alone.
This is one of the greatest benefits of attending any support group -- eating disorders, grieving parents, or a 12-step group like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) to name a few. I couldn’t count the number of times I have had clients tell me “I thought I was the only one….” and then found out that many others think and feel the exact same things.
There is something quite meaningful about this shared experience. To feel a sense of “I thought it was just me – but it’s not” can have a powerful effect on beginning to heal the shame related to any symptoms someone is struggling with. This community of group support can be what helps someone believe he or she is able to make changes toward health and recovery.
3. To hear what has helped others.
In many support groups, members share their “experience, strength, and hope.” They share what has worked for them during their own struggles (along with examples of what has not been helpful) and the hope is that this will aid you in your own process.
Group members might discuss what first motivated them to enter eating disorder treatment, how they have navigated talking with their family about their eating disorder, what type of treatment or therapy has been helpful, or even how they use their support network on a day-to-day basis.
Some clients have told me that support groups are what keep them moving forward -- even when they are not in treatment and are struggling with their own recovery.
Although attending a support group might seem daunting at first, these three reasons are why you should definitely get to one and check it out!