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Learn more about the results we get at Within

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How to help a friend with an eating disorder

If you're having the thought, "I think my friend has an eating disorder," but aren't sure what to do about it, the situation can feel overwhelming.

It can be difficult to know how or when to help, and how to support a friend with an eating disorder can often look and feel different, depending on the person's needs, history, and where they are on their recovery journey.

But there are some things you can do to help your loved one recognize, talk about, or find help for their condition.

Last updated on 
November 21, 2023
November 21, 2023
Helping a friend with an eating disorder
In this article

What to do if your friend has an eating disorder?

If you're wondering what to do if a friend has an eating disorder, the tips below may be able to help you approach the situation and find your loved one the treatment they need.

Learn about their disorder
Talk to them
Show them support
Actively help them
It's important to seek professional help before medical complications arise that pose a risk to a person's health.
Take care of yourself
If your friend's disordered eating concerns you, virtual treatment may be the answer.
Learn more >

Helping a friend with an eating disorder find treatment

As much as you may want your friend to get better, the journey toward recovery is ultimately theirs to take. So, if your friend doesn't feel ready to commit to recovery or starts slipping after a period of progress, it's important not to blame yourself.

Instead, you can help them find additional professional support. At Within Health, we pride ourselves on helping all types of people struggling with all types of eating disorders through our comprehensive online program. You can contact us today to see how we can help you or your loved one.

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Disclaimer about "overeating": Within Health hesitatingly uses the word "overeating" because it is the term currently associated with this condition in society, however, we believe it inherently overlooks the various psychological aspects of this condition which are often interconnected with internalized diet culture, and a restrictive mindset about food. For the remainder of this piece, we will therefore be putting "overeating" in quotations to recognize that the diagnosis itself pathologizes behavior that is potentially hardwired and adaptive to a restrictive mindset.

Disclaimer about weight loss drugs: Within does not endorse the use of any weight loss drug or behavior and seeks to provide education on the insidious nature of diet culture. We understand the complex nature of disordered eating and eating disorders and strongly encourage anyone engaging in these behaviors to reach out for help as soon as possible. No statement should be taken as healthcare advice. All healthcare decisions should be made with your individual healthcare provider.

Resources

  1. How to help a loved one. (n.d.). National Eating Disorders Association. (2021, August 27). Retrieved July 12, 2022.
  2. Smith, M., Robinson, L., Segal, J. (2022, June 15). Helping someone with an eating disorder. HelpGuide.org. Retrieved July 12, 2022.
  3. How to help someone with an eating disorder. (n.d.). United Kingdom National Health Services. Accessed November 2023.
  4. Recovery. (n.d.). National Eating Disorders Collaboration. Accessed November 2023.

FAQs

I think my friend has an eating disorder. How can I be certain?

If you're wondering how to know if your friend has an eating disorder, one of the best ways to get a better understanding is doing the research. There's a lot of information online detailing the different symptoms, signs, risks, and warning signs of eating disorders. Learning more about these conditions can help you better understand if your friend may be struggling.

If you feel comfortable, you can also approach your friend and directly ask them if something is wrong. But if you try this approach, remember to be very careful with your words, as kind and supportive as possible, and to do so in a private setting.

How to support a friend with an eating disorder?

It may sound simple, but one of the best ways of helping a friend with an eating disorder is simply being there. Letting them know they can reach out to you for support, to talk about concerns they may be having, or just to relax and try to feel okay is a great way to support a friend.

How do you know if your friend has an eating disorder?

Again, in this case, knowledge is power. Learning about different eating disorders and how they present in different people is likely the best way to understand if your friend may be struggling with one of these conditions.

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