How to Help When You See Signs of an Eating Disorder in Yourself or Someone Else


I'm seeing many articles about how to recognize an eating disorder in your friend.  The good news is people become more aware of the presence of anorexia, bulimia and compulsive eating disorders in their associates and in the media.  But what are you supposed to do about it?

Tell a person she should go to a psychotherapist or a clinic?  Tell a person she should stop?

That usually doesn't accomplish anything except maybe to make the person angry and too threatened to have a relationship with you. Yet you can be helpful in real ways.

Suppose you are not the friend.  Suppose you are the person with bulimia or anorexia. How could someone help you?

If you are seriously contemplating going into recovery from your own eating disorder, you know that making real moves toward eating disorder recovery requires courage, determination and a willingness to have your supportive based pulled out from under you.  You don't just stop your eating disorder behaviors.  That's not recovery.

You heal. You continue to build the person you are, a construction project that stopped with the advent of your eating disorder.

So what could someone say or do to encourage your to make that move?


What your friend does that doesn't work:

1.   tells you you are too fat or too thin

2.   tells you to go to a psychotherapist

3.  tell you to stop

4.   tires to be your therapist and confidante

5.   keeps your secrets and helps you act out

6.  makes your behavior seem normal by bingeing or purging or starving with you

7.  goes on fad diets with you


What your friend does that could help:

1.   treats you as a normal person

2.   is polite and makes no comment on your physical appearance

3.   invites you to join her in social activities with no special accommodations for your eating disorder behavior needs.

4.   expects you to be able to function with people in social situations, especially where food is being served.

5.   does not talk with you about your diets, eating or non eating plans, exercise routines, etc.

6.   does let you know she loves you and is concerned about your health.

7.   does let you know she would go with you and support you in making any moves toward treatment.

8.   does listen to your fears and when you open the subject, offer support and direction toward recovery information,

websites (like this one), films, books and groups that support recovery.

9.   tells you that she knows about these resources because she's been concerned about you for a long time and hoped   that she could help you find help if you ever asked.

10. sets a healthy example by eating well, caring for her mind and body, saying no to what is not good for her and actively pursuing her own happiness.

Inspiration can be more effective than censure and demand.

Common Signs of an Eating Disorder

Women's Health Magazine is running an article that lists six common signs of the presence of an eating disorder as described by Dr. Stacey Rosenfeld, clinical psychologist specializing in eating disorders and addictions at Columbia Doctors Eastside in New York City.

Does this describe you or someone you know?

1) Dramatic weight loss
2) Refusal to eat certain foods, skipping meals, or always having "eaten just before"
4) Excessive concern over food content (fat, calories, etc.)
5) Fixation on appearance
6) Pulling back socially

If this describes you, I invite you to be your own friend and follow the "what works" suggestions. Getting "help" doesn't mean finding a way to be more comfortable and happy while you live the way you do with your eating disorder.

"Getting help" means putting yourself in a position to receive effective treatment from a kind, caring and knowledgeable clinician who will work with you as your move toward real freedom.


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