Struggling with an Eating Disorder? Check out this Duke Online Community!

By Julia Nicholas

You or someone you love is struggling with a potentially life-threatening eating disorder. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a community of individuals who understand what you are going through, who are there to give you encouragement or advice from their personal experience—without judgement, and to have access to professionals that you can ask questions of—at no charge?

This was the spirit that motivated the creation of the Duke Center for Eating Disorder Family and Community web-based community. This community, which provides free weekly educational seminars and support groups around the world and free of charge, was made possible by a generous donation by the Brody Brothers Foundation.

Eating disorders are some of the most poorly understood psychiatric disorders. This makes it exhausting for the individuals who struggle with them and their families to get the support they need. Imagine trying to have to explain what you are going through again and again—only to have to combat rampant misconceptions in which people believe that you have a disorder in which you are just concerned about your appearance.

In fact, eating disorders are about fundamental disruptions in the capacity to trust yourself. You distrust that anything that your body communicates can be viewed as a source of reliable information. Thus you try to compensate. You use rigid rules to try to motivate yourself, to guide your decisions and to give you a false sense of control—only to inevitably fail to adhere to those rules and feel like a failure.

This is complicated stuff. It is difficult to understand when you are not experiencing it yourself and thus challenging to communicate to others—thus furthering the sense of loneliness and social isolation that often is the experience of those that struggle with eating disorders.

To help with this, one of the additional goals of this online community was to create resources—videos and blogs and groups—that could help explain the nature of having an eating disorder to those who desperately wanted to understand and help; to provide tools for family members to help them better support their child; and at times; to provide a bit of levity to eating disorder treatment. We hope you find them useful. Here are some samples:

  • The Internal Battle of an Eating Disorder (Parts 1 and Part 2) describes the conflict between what the body needs and what the mind feels safe in responding to, in those with an eating disorder.
  • Have a child struggling with excessive exercise? Check out this video.
  • Or check out our community and join a group