How to Help Someone with an Eating Disorder

teen having a consultation

Most of us want to be a good friend, but how can you be one when somebody suffers from a condition, such as an eating disorder? How can you help without crossing the line?

When you believe your friend needs your support, here are a few things you can do:

1. Educate Yourself

If you want to help, then your assistance should come from a place of understanding. You cannot do that unless you receive the right knowledge or information about eating disorders.

To learn more about the different types, you can visit the websites of:

  • National Association of Anorexia and Associated Disorders (ANAD)
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
  • National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
  • American Psychiatric Association (APA)
  • National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA)
  • Helpguide.org

Some of the things you need to learn include:

  • Types of eating disorders
  • Warning signs or symptoms
  • Myths
  • Available treatments or management plans

2. Be Present

For many people with eating disorders, facing the condition can be daunting. It can be a lonely journey, and that can significantly reduce their compliance. They might even not opt for any treatment at all.

You can help them overcome this in many ways, including being present during their therapy sessions. In a binge-eating disorder recovery plan, the patient can participate in group therapy sessions with loved ones.

You can volunteer to join not only to support but also to educate yourself further. You will know what to watch out, especially since these individuals are prone to relapse. Moreover, you can help the clinic keep track of your friend’s progress.

woman supporting a friend

3. Practice Patience

It’s not unusual for those with eating disorders to deny the problem or reject your offers of support or help. It could be because:

  • They are afraid of the stigma that comes with being diagnosed with eating disorders.
  • They don’t want to deal with the root cause of their health condition, which can include low self-esteem or poor body image.
  • They might mistakenly believe treatment plans to be expensive and unhelpful.
  • They don’t want to be away from their family and friends.

Your friend might shut you down, and that’s fine. What’s important is you can keep your communication open. Give them the easiest phone number to call. Chat or text as often as you can. When they’re ready to talk, listen without prejudice or judgment.

4. Take Care of Yourself

You cannot take care of someone if you need it yourself. Otherwise:

  • You can develop burnout and stress, and you are prone to getting sick.
  • It might send the wrong message to your struggling friend. People with eating disorders are susceptible to other mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression. When they feel you’re already tired, they might only feel worse about themselves.

How can you keep yourself healthy? Here are a few tips:

  • Eat right. Your choices of food can even influence your friend to do the same.
  • Join a support group. Just as there are groups for people with the condition, you can also find those that are ideal for friends and family. Talking your feelings and thoughts with them can help you deal with the pressure and stress. You can also get tips on how to better deal with the situation from others.

When you know how to help those with eating disorders, you can help save a life.

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