Eating disorders can have a huge impact, not just on the individuals who are experiencing them, but also on their friends and family. Equally friends and family can have a really positive impact on someones recovery.

At SYEDA we offer support to friends and family members of people struggling with eating disorders. We know that it can be extremely distressing and stressful watching a loved one struggling in this way, and so we offer talking therapies and a support group for for friends and families. It is important that you also have the support you need. You don’t need to be living with the person you are concerned for to access support.

Although most people who experience an eating disorder need some professional support to get well, friends and family can also play an important role in supporting recovery. The "treading on eggshells" course is aimed at supporting you to be as effective as possible in supporting the person that you care about. We understand that this can be challenging and the course allows you to explore this within a supportive environment. 

Eating disorders are extremely complex and their causes are extremely complex. It is important to remember that you are not the cause of the eating disorder.

Family and Friends Support Group

The  Family and Friends Support Group offers an opportunity for people who care about someone who is experiencing an eating disorder to come togther  to offer each other support. It can be  helpful to speak with people who are in a similar situation to you and to share experiences, ideas and support in an open and caring environment. 

I have reached out in all possible ways for help in this life shattering time. The Family & Friends support group has proved to be a life-line in my current situation. It helps me to see there might be hope but also forewarns me about potential problems.

I can be free in what I say and not worry about being judged. People there can identify with my problems and possibly offer suggestions. I have felt able to offer words of comfort to other people. I leave the session feeling a tiny bit more fortified and resilient, more ready to face the next challenges.

You feel less alone.

The group is open to anyone who is supporting someone experiencing an eating disorder. It runs on the first Tuesday of the month, 7:00 - 8:30 p.m. from our office in Sheffield. A peer support group for people with eating disorders runs at the same time in a separate room. We ask that  if the person that you are supporting comes with you, that they attend the Peer Support Group for people experiencing an eating disorder, or that they wait in the waiting room until the group has finished. 

The dates for 2019 are as follows:

08 January, 05 February, 05 March, 02 April, 07 May, 04 June, 02 July, 06 August, 03 September, 01 October, 05 November, 03 December

The group is run by trained facilitators, with a minimum of two facilitators at each group.The facilitators are usually around for at least 10 minutes before and after the group starts and finishes so you can speak with them privately should you wish to. It can be daunting attending a group for the first time but please be assured that the facilitators, and other group members, will make you feel welcome.  If you are attending for the first time then the facilitators will be around to introduce themselves and explain more about the group so please feel free to come a little earlier for a cuppa and a chat.

People arrive in varying states of fragility and various stages of crisis. The conversations start off intense and often desperate. Usually, by the latter part of the session, we are sharing smiles and the occasional laugh.

I make it a priority to go. Even though time takes on a whole new meaning when you have a child with anorexia because the majority of you time can be spent organising food, thinking about food, buying food, preparing food, trying to cajole someone to eat food, being sad if the person cannot eat food... You rarely take time away, but attending the carers support group is definitely time well spent.

I have reached out in all possible ways for help in this life shattering time. The carers support group has proved to be a life-line in my current situation. It helps me to see there might be hope but also forewarns me about potential problems. I can be free in what I say and not worry about being judged. People there can identify with my problems and possibly offer suggestions. I have felt able to offer words of comfort to other people. I leave the session feeling a tiny bit more fortified and resilient, more ready to face the next challenges. You feel less alone.

The facilitators are warm, supportive, encouraging and knowledgeable. It is also comforting just knowing that people give up their time to try to give us support.

The ground rules have been agreed by those accessing the group on a regular basis.  We run through the rules at the beginning of each group and give the opportunity for people to add anything they think is appropriate.

Family and Friends Support Group Ground Rules

  • Time boundaries - The group starts at 7.00pm and finishes at 8.30pm.

  • No pressure to talk - If you want to join in the discussion then we welcome your input however no one will be asked to speak if they just want to listen.

  • Confidentiality/anonymity - What we speak about stays in the room.

  • Non-judgmental - Please don’t judge one another, everyone’s experiences are very different.

  • Respect other people's opinions - Please respect the opinions of others, even if you don’t share them.

  • Let others have their say - We appreciate that you may have a lot to say at the group but time is limited and it’s important that everyone feels listened to.

  • Don't talk over other people - Please don’t interrupt people when they’re speaking or talk over others.

  • It's OK to show emotion - Whatever that emotion may be, anger, frustration, hurt, upset, fear—it’s ok to express it in the room.

  • If you are in the room, be in the room - Try to leave everything else at the door as you come into the room and focus on the group.

  • Turn off mobile phones

  • If we meet outside of here it's OK not to acknowledge each other - Sometimes in order to maintain confidentiality and anonymity it’s not always appropriate to acknowledge one another.

  • Ask for help if you feel overwhelmed at the end of a session - The facilitators will be around at the end for anyone needing to speak to them.

Talking Therapies

We recognise that caring for someone who is experiencing an eating disorder can be extremely distressing and stressful. Our friendly team of specialist therapists can offer a range of different talking therapies to support you during this difficult time. 

To access talking therapies, you will first need to refer yourself for an assessment appointment. Please see our Referral Form to refer yourself for an assessment appointment.

The referral form asks you for a bit of information about your situation. Once this is submitted someone from our clinical team will look through the information. We may contact you to discuss the referral before offering you an appointment for an assessment. At an assessment someone from the team will meet with you to discuss what has brought you here and discuss what may be helpful. This is a collaboration between us and you to help you to find the most suitable source of support at that time.  An outcome of this may be that you are placed on our waiting list for talking therapy such as counselling or to join a Treading on Eggshells workshop. Talking therapies are currently provided in Sheffield, Rotherham and Barnsley.

I remember the relief and hope I felt when I got the call saying I could be offered counselling after being on the waiting list. Counselling was very helpful. It gave me somewhere safe and confidential to discuss my feelings. It gave me a weekly escape. Even if sessions brought out difficult and strong emotions, I felt better afterwards.

Our team currently offer the following types of talking therapies which are all available to family and friends, as well as individuals who are experiencing an eating disorder;

  • Counselling
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (C.B.T.)
  • Dialectic Behavioral Therapy (D.B.T.)
  • Psychoanalytically Informed Psychotherapy
  • Dynamic Interpersonal Therapy

Treading on Eggshells

  • Do you care about someone who has an eating disorder?

  • Are you afraid of what to say and what not to say?

  • Feeling frustrated, alone, isolated?

  • Wishing you could share your concerns with people who understand?

Treading on Eggshells is for you

Treading on Eggshells is a course for anyone who is caring for someone with an eating disorder. You may be a parent, friend, brother or sister, boyfriend, girlfriend or partner. Treading on Eggshells will help you to cope better and show you ways in which you can help both yourself and the person you care for.

The Maudsley Method recognises that only the person with the eating disorder can achieve recovery, but that they can’t do it alone; also – whilst professional treatment can be enormously helpful – most people with eating disorders spend much more time with their families and friends (their carers) than with professionals.  Because of these facts, both professionals and carers need to have similar skills; that is, be able to support a person with an eating disorder to develop their own motivation to achieve recovery.  It is these motivational skills that the Treading on Eggshells course teaches, whilst also helping carers to build resilience and look after themselves.  To purchase from Amazon click here

If you are interested in joining this course you will need to self refer here.


Tips for carers

  • For someone to recover from an eating disorder, they have to want to. However much you love them, you can’t do it for them. What you can do is encourage and support them to be more motivated. This can make a real difference to their recovery.

  • Try not to blame the person or be judgemental. Tell them you’re concerned and want to help, though be clear about what behaviour you won’t tolerate.

  • Know that recovery isn’t easy and will take time.

  • Praise any positive efforts.

  • Avoid comments about appearance.

  • Keep telling the person how much you value them.

  • Instead of soul-searching for the reasons behind the eating disorder, try to plan what to do next.

  • Find out the government guidelines on what treatment should be offered to people with eating disorders

  • Contact for more help and support

Useful Books

  • Skills Based Learning for Caring for a Loved One with an Eating Disorder. The New Maudsley Method by Janet Treasure, Grainné Smith & Anna Crane

  • Help Your Teenager Beat an Eating Disorder, by James Lock and Daniel Le Grange

  • Eating Disorders: Helping Your Child Recover ed. Steve Bloomfield, published by the Eating Disorders Association

Accessing Support for your loved one

If you don't feel that the person that you care about is getting the support that they need

Healthwatch England is the national consumer champion in health and social care. They have statutory powers to ensure the voice of the consumer is strengthened and heard by those who commission, deliver and regulate health and care services. Each area has its own Health Watch;

You can also use this link to make a complaint about NHS services.