Mental health expert talks Thanksgiving stress

Local News

(WKBN) — Thanksgiving can be stressful for anyone struggling with a mental health illness, especially an eating disorder.

“Holidays are difficult for everyone but particularly for someone who’s struggling with an eating disorder and with an underlying mental health disorder like anxiety and depression,” said National Alliance on Mental Illness Mahoning Valley executive director Hope Hanley.

Hanley said holidays can trigger some tough thoughts while participating in various festivities.

“What shall I eat, when shall I eat, how much shall I eat: those are all decisions that for a person who has an eating disorder, those decisions are very difficult,” Hanley said.

Some signs of added pressure at the dinner table on Thanksgiving include moving food around on the plate, covering up the plate with a napkin and binge eating.

“There are different ways that people learn to deal with the pressure and the encouragement to eat, eat, eat. That’s something in our society here in America that’s always there,” Hanley said.

However, Hanley said there are ways to cope with stress on Thanksgiving.

“If you have to go to three Thanksgiving dinners because of family obligations then look at ‘Is there a way we could only go to two or is there something that I could do to kind of lessen the stress of this?'” Hanley said.

She also recommended support groups and therapy to help with these difficult times. Family members and loved ones have the opportunity to help as well. She said it’s always best to speak with someone struggling with an eating disorder privately.

“Some of the most powerful words in our language, ‘Can I help?’ Because it lets the person know that you are there,” Hanley said.

NAMI is available to offer support and education to anyone struggling with their mental health.

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