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How to help someone with an eating disorder

by Amanda Collins

If you think that someone you care about may be suffering with an eating disorder, the good news is there is help available.

People suffering from these conditions can, and do, get better with treatment. An eating disorder is not a life sentence.

Having said this, it is important that your loved one gets help as soon as possible. Eating disorders not only affect their mind and behaviour, but they also put a serious strain on their bodies and these effects only get worse over time.

helping someone

Learn more

Before you do anything, it’s a good idea to learn more about eating disorders and body image. To do this you could do a Google search, speak to your local GP, read a book on the subject, or call The Butterfly Foundation (a dedicated foundation for eating disorders) on 1800 334 673.

The more information that you have on the condition, what your loved one is experiencing, and how to approach them about it, the better placed you will be to really help.

Talk to them

After research, it is time to bring the subject up with your loved one. Choose a time and a place where they are comfortable and away from other people. Do not bring the subject up when eating, or in a group of people.

What to say

It’s best to be open, honest, non-judgemental and above all else, kind.

Start by saying statements like “I’ve noticed” or “I’m worried” and avoid accusations like “you’re making me worried”.

It’s important that you keep the focus of your concern on their health and emotional wellbeing, rather than food and weight.

Calmly explain your concerns over their health and behaviours. Explain that you think there is a problem, and that there is professional help available to them should they wish to accept it, encourage them to seek help and assure them that you will support, love and care for them no matter what.

What if they react badly?

There is a chance that your loved one will get defensive or angry when you bring up your concerns. It is important to remain calm. Don’t judge them or attack them. Let them know that you are there for them, and that if they need to talk, you will listen.

It’s important that you revisit the conversation in a couple of weeks.

You may want to speak to the counsellors at The Butterfly Foundation about how to approach them a second, third and fourth time.

Don’t lose hope and don’t give up on them. What they are going through is all consuming, their every thought is controlled by their disorder and it can take time for them to come around to the idea that they need help.

Getting help

If your loved one is ready to get help, the first port of is their local GP. You should also put them in contact with the counsellors at the Butterfly Foundation on 1800 334 673.

Support them by offering to take them to their GP, and to counselling. It’s important that they know that you will be there for them, and that you love them no matter what they are going through.


For more information on eating disorders, getting help and support check out the following sites:

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