Interacting with a family or friend experiencing an eating disorder can be difficult. You worry about saying the wrong things and making matters worse. However, it is important to reach out to them and address their illness in the right way. Most of the time, people with eating disorders are afraid to approach people about their problems and ask for help. So, here’s how to help someone with an eating disorder.
1. Timing is key
When speaking to a person with an eating disorder about their situation, make sure that you do it in private to avoid any distractions. Aside from finding the right place and time, you must also ensure that you talk to them when the person is calm. You do not want to try to get them to talk about the problem when they’ve just gone through a rough day dealing with it.
2. Listen, don’t judge
Be mindful of the things you say to them. Avoid criticising them or giving them any lectures about their behaviour. This will only make them more defensive and secretive. Show them that you care for them and that you want to help them. Listen to them, even if they say some things that you do not fully understand or may not agree with. What is important is that they know that they are being heard and that there is someone who is trying to understand them without judging them.
3. Be patient
If the person does not open up to you immediately, be patient. It takes time for most of them to tell you about their problems. Some people don’t even know the reason why they are behaving the way they do. Just make sure that you show them that you are always there to listen when they are ready to share.
4. Help promote their self-esteem
This is difficult to do for adults with eating disorders but can be done mostly with the younger ones. If you have a child suffering from an eating disorder, try to engage them in athletic or intellectual activities. Praise them when they do something good in order to help make them believe in themselves better.
5. Learn more about the disorder and watch out for triggers
The best way to help people with eating disorders is to know more about what causes it and how to address it. Consult an expert on the case so they can help you with the challenges you and the patient are facing.
If the person with an eating disorder is already under recovery, make sure to be very mindful of anything that can trigger them to go back to their old ways. Avoid talking about weight, eating, or body image until the patient is ready to discuss it. However, try to make your environment as normal as possible so they don’t feel anxious about their recovery.
Eating disorders are treatable illnesses. Without treatment, it will most likely get worse and will affect the person not only physically but also mentally and emotionally. The sooner you address the problem, the greater their chances of faster recovery.
If you’d still like advice on how to help someone with an eating disorder, or if you yourself are struggling, click to learn more about our eating disorder treatment at Step 1 Recovery.