How to Help Someone With an Eating Disorder: A Guide For Friends and Family

Experts estimate that around 30 million people in the U.S. have an eating disorder. Whether it's anorexia, bulimia, or other serious disorders, there are many who suffer.

As a friend or family member, you may wonder how to help someone with an eating disorder. Offering support and engaging with someone who suffers is always better than silence.

How to Help Someone with an Eating Disorder

Take a look at these helpful ways to support your friends and family with eating disorders. You may save their lives.

1. Don't Ignore the Signs

The number one rule of helping someone who has an eating disorder is not to ignore the signs.

Even if someone doesn't look like they have a disorder, it doesn't mean it's not there. Watch for:

  • Insecurity about their body
  • Fear of eating
  • Irregular sleep
  • Binging without weight gain
  • Secretive eating
  • Purging
  • Restriction of food

These are only some of the tell-tale signs of someone who has a disorder. Another very important thing to look for are signs of depression. All the above signs can add to depression, as well as the disorder itself.

2. Talk to Them

The next step in how to help an anorexic or bulimic is to talk to them. Silence only perpetuates the behavior.

The most important factor in talking to them, though, is to never accuse. Someone who hates their body already feels enough guilt and dislike for themselves. You don't need to add to it by making them feel worse.

When you decide to open the conversation, it's best to make sure they're comfortable. It's also important that you don't raise your tone or lose your temper.

3. Get Professional Help

Anorexia, as well as other disorders, can be life-threatening. That's why it's critical that you don't try to diagnose or treat the person on your own.

Getting the help of a professional is the best course of action. But, it's also important that your family member doesn't feel pressured or forced. Seeing someone for help should be their idea, even if you persuade them.

Finding a place that offers eating disorder family support shouldn't be difficult. Within these treatment facilities, you'll find support for your friend or family member.

4. Have Patience for Your Loved One

Eating disorders aren't curable overnight. You won't see a sudden change in the person you love, and that takes patience.

Supporting someone with an eating disorder means making it about them and not you. They're already frustrated with themselves, and they need you to tell them it will be okay.

Also, expect relapses. Give them time, and realize they may never be 100 percent okay.

5. Don't Isolate Them

In our own misguided way, we want to protect people from their vices. But that can lead to isolation and irritation.

Don't stop inviting them to parties or dinners. That will only cause further damage, and it won't help them recover. Be there for them when they need it but know that it isn't your job to shield them.

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When you know how to help someone with an eating disorder, you give them a comfortable place to be. Remember, those who suffer are still your friend, sister, brother, and parent. They only need a little support from those they trust to help see them through.

Want more? Read these great tips for living a healthier life!

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