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How Can I Help?


Someone you love has an eating disorder. You want to help, but you don't want to offend or push that person away. What do you do?

First, recognize that the person with an eating disorder will likely feel ashamed or embarrassed that you have uncovered his or her secret. Experts suggest the following tactics:

~ Express your concern, but be prepared for all possible reactions. These may include denial, anger, hostility, defensiveness or, perhaps, relief.

~ Be firm but caring. Be prepared to explain why you believe the person has an eating disorder. Denial is difficult in the face of hard evidence.

~ Read as much as possible about the subject. This will allow you to help the person understand his or her problem.

~ Don't nag about eating or not eating. Don't spy. People with eating disorders are already self-conscious about their eating habits.

~ Don't agree to help the person control binges by hiding food. The person will likely be resentful and will find other ways to binge.

~ Be willing to listen. One of the best ways to help someone gain control over an eating disorder is to reach out as a friend. Show your support instead of focusing on eating behavior.

~ Stress that you care deeply and would like to help in whatever way you can. Offer to help find the right treatment center and arrange an appointment.

~ The most important way you can help is to urge your friend or family member to seek counseling. Offer to make an appointment or go with the person if he or she wants you to. You may need to be encouraging, caring and persistent to convince your friend or loved one to get help. People with eating disorders often need lots of understanding and support to stick with treatment once started.

Remember to take care of yourself as well. It's easy to feel overwhelmed and completely absorbed in this crisis. You may want to find a support group made up of other people dealing with the same issues.

SOURCES:

  • The Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness. How to approach a loved one? Accessed: 05/11/2010
  • Helpguide.org. Helping someone with an eating disorder. Accessed: 05/11/2010
  • National Eating Disorders Association. What should I say? Tips for talking to a friend who may be struggling with an eating disorder. Accessed: 05/11/2010


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