How to Help a Friend Who Has an Eating Disorder

You’ve watched your friend struggle with an eating disorder for years and felt helpless to do anything about it. You haven’t wanted to interfere, despite the effect anorexia, bulimia or a binge eating disorder is having on your friend’s health.

You may even worry about saying anything to your friend for fear of ruining the friendship.  But, if left untreated, you may risk losing your friend to the devastating effects of an eating disorder.
If you have a friend, male or female, who has been struggling with an eating disorder, don’t be afraid to offer your help. It may be the best thing you’ve ever done for your friend.
Here are some ways you can help your friend accept and recover from an eating disorder:
Be Supportive. People who have anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorder usually develop the disorder due to an underlying issue, not just because they want to lose weight. Understand that your friend may be going through some serious emotional pain and offer to listen to their problems. Let your friend know that, no matter what he or she ends up telling you, you will be there to offer support, guidance or a caring ear.
Do Your Research. You friend may not be aware that they have an eating disorder, or may not yet be willing to admit a problem exists. Before confronting your friend, research the various eating disorders to make sure your friend’s symptoms match the diagnostic criteria for an eating disorders. When you talk with your friend, have available some printed information about eating disorders, including symptoms, side effects and treatment options.
Call for Help. Part of your research may involve calling some residential treatment facilities for eating disorders, which may be able to provide you free, confidential information on treatment for your friend. This may make you feel more confident when you do have a discussion about eating disorders, especially if you come armed with ways that your friend can be helped by eating disorder treatment professionals.
Be Patient. Even if you recognize the symptoms of anorexia, bulimia or binge eating disorder in your friend, she or he may not yet be willing to admit that they have a problem with food. Instead of being accusatory, let your friend know your concerns and that you are there when they are ready to talk. It may take some time for your friend to recognize a problem exists and be open to accepting help.
Helping your friend recover from an eating disorder may be difficult at times, but through your support and caring and the right type of eating disorder treatment, your friend can recover from their disorder and live a healthier life. Thanks to you.