How do I Help a Friend Who Has an Eating Disorder?

Roommates smilingA truly caring friend is one of the greatest gifts of life.  Reaching out to others who are hurting and needing support is a beautiful act of kindness.  Sometimes, though, it is difficult to find the words to express our concern without hurting the other person.

So often we say nothing and ignore the obvious struggle that our friend endures, rather than risking offending our friend.  However, there are times when the struggle a friend is enduring is of such significant threat to their health and well-being that we may feel obligated to risk losing the friendship in order to help someone we care about.

In the end, we hope it does not come down to losing a friendship, but it will be worth the risk to help someone be restored to a healthy and meaningful life that may have otherwise continued to suffer, or even die, from an eating disorder.

Once the decision has been made to discuss the disordered eating behaviors you have observed with your friend, find a quiet place, alone, to address your concerns.  Maintain a respectful and compassionate attitude in the discussion.

A possible approach could be, “I feel concerned about you because I see you restricting food, exercising excessively, purging… (or whatever the concerning eating disordered behavior is) and I am fearful about your health.  I care about you and would like to help you.  Will you talk to me about what is going on with you?  Would you allow me to help you find treatment”?

Offering support and acceptance of the friend, right where they are at, will go a long way toward helping them to hear your concerns.

Article contributed by Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC and Crystal Karges, BS
Reviewd by Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on July 31, 2013
Published on, Guide for Eating Disorders