Starting a conversation about depression, addiction or an eating disorder with a loved one.When a loved one has a problem, it is only natural to want to help. This desire to come together around a struggling comrade is part of what makes us human. But what about when the person needing help has a problem with addiction, depression or an eating disorder? Friends and family may want to help but simply starting the first conversation can be daunting.
As a primary counselor and the Clinical manager at Life Works Community, Jill Fowler knows all to well how difficult that first step can be. She has some tips for anyone who is thinking of starting the first conversation with a loved one.
Pick your moment
Fowler said these are the most important things to keep in mind when confronting someone about a problem like an eating disorder, depression or addiction. Picking your moment will insure that the person is in the right frame of mind to discuss a serious issue. A good example of this is talking to an alcoholic when they are hung over rather than drunk. When the time is right, make sure to show the person you are concerned and compassionate. It can be very easy to get annoyed or angry at someone’s problem but Fowler said it is important to make it clear that you are worried about them, understand they have a problem and want to help. This prevents the discussion from devolving into an argument. Finally it is important to provide evidence of the problem to combat denial and then suggest some options for help or treatment.
“What I would want to say is ‘I am concerned about you and this is why I am concerned about you and here is the evidence.’ If we can do that in a way that is not to threatening, then I hope we can have a conversation about this,” Fowler said.
Along with these tips, there are also a few things she recommends avoiding in any such discussion.
Any of these behaviors is likely to place the person in need of help on the defensive. They may deny they have a problem, withdraw from the conversation, or become ashamed and sink further into their original problem. It may be hard to stay calm and not try to push them into recovery but the initial conversation is so important and it is in everyone’s best interest to get it right so the healing process can begin.