How to Talk to Someone About Their Eating Disorder

Have you ever watched someone struggle with an eating disorder? It’s a heart-wrenching experience that takes a serious toll.

An eating disorder is an all-consuming mental illness. It affects every aspect of your life from food to family. It’s rooted in obsessive behaviors that ultimately cause physical and psychological damage. If you suspect someone is dealing with this condition, there are ways you can help.

Here are some important steps to get you started.

  • Be Informed: Learn as much as you can about eating disorders and their underlying causes. This will help you recognize triggers and debunk any myths or preconceptions.
  • Meet in Private: This is a very sensitive subject that should be addressed one-on-one. The presence of additional people can be distracting and feel intrusive. Find a private space that invokes comfort and ease.
  • Expect the Worst: People suffering with eating disorders can be very defensive. Questions regarding their health may cause them to be dismissive or combative. It’s important to stay strong and reinforce your concerns.
  • Present the Facts: Explain what you’ve observed and why it’s troubling. Avoid accusatory phrases such as “You’re starving yourself! You’re always at the gym!” Stick to “I’ve seen this or I’ve noticed that.”
  • Stand your Ground: When addressing an eating disorder, you must be firm yet supportive. Don’t be manipulated or taken off course. Avoid making promises that you can’t keep. Focus on the issue at hand, which is their health.
  • Listen Intently: Pay attention and acknowledge the person’s point of view.  Absorb the information so you can understand what they’re dealing with and how to move forward.
  • Seek a Professional: An individual with an eating disorder will require professional help. Volunteer to contact a physician or therapist who specializes in EDs. It’s crucial they receive treatment as soon as possible.
  • Stay Consistent: When it comes to recovery, patience is key. This is a long process that can be demanding and thankless. Concentrate on the end goal, prioritizing long-term success over short-term struggles.

Learn more about eating disorders and treatment by visiting the National Eating Disorders Association.

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Photo credit: KatarzynaBialasiewicz

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