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Help! I Think My Friend Has an Eating Disorder

Friend with Eating Disorder.jpg

Watching a friend transform from a healthy individual into a shadow of her former self can be a scary thing.
Her weight may drop, her attitude may change, she might start pulling away from you, and eventually you’re left wondering what happened to your friend.

How do you express your concerns, and how can you support her through recovery?

If you think your friend may have an eating disorder, there are some things you can do to help.

Expressing Your Concerns

Educate Yourself

Learning more about your friend’s disorder can help prepare you for what will probably be a difficult conversation. It can also help you communicate your concerns to your friend when the time comes. If you know more about the various eating disorders and their associated problems, you will feel more comfortable when you bring up your concerns with your friend.

As you learn more about eating disorders, you will find that they oftentimes aren't triggered solely by concerns with body weight and body image. Usually a person suffering from an eating disorder feels a high amount of stress or a lack of control over their situations. Let your friend know that you’re there to support him, not to judge him.

Use "I" Statements

When you’re ready to talk with your friend, use “I” statements, such as, “I’m worried about how stressed you’ve seemed lately, and how that stress might be affecting your health. Is there anything you want to talk about?” Focusing on your worry instead of your friend’s actions can help keep the conversation from turning into a confrontation.

Be Flexible in Your Approach

You can't control how your friend will react. She might be angry or defensive, apologetic or in denial. Your friend may admit to having a problem and wanting help, in which case you can offer to go with her to speak with an adult, a counselor, or a help center. It’s more likely that she’ll deny your concerns because she has gotten used to hiding her disorder from everyone. Don’t be discouraged; just let your friend know that you’ll be there if she needs to talk to someone. Try bringing it up again in a few days, but if she continues to deny having a problem, you may want to talk to an adult or counselor about your concerns.

Your friend might be upset and feel betrayed when he learns that you’ve spoken to someone else about your concerns. Try to remind your friend that you care about him and want him to be healthy and safe. Your actions might help save his life, so don’t be too afraid of his reaction to approach an adult or counselor. Hopefully your friend will get the help he needs and will realize that you have his best interest in mind.

Supporting a Friend through Recovery

Your friend will need you more than ever as she goes through this difficult time. If she has gone to an inpatient recovery program, try to keep in touch online or go in for visits if that’s allowed.

After she’s regained weight and gone through the recovery program, she will still need your support and friendship as she will need to find other ways to deal with her stress and body image issues. Try to avoid talking about food, dieting, and appearance, and instead focus on your friend’s strengths and personality. It’s also a good idea not to appear too critical of her food choices and eating habits. Focus on having fun and staying positive as your friend goes through the recovery process.

Psychology Today