What to Do If Your Friend Has an Eating Disorder? A Guide.

Written by: Vasundhara Shukla – M. Phil


Last updated date : June 08, 2022

The term eating disorder sounds like a person who doesn’t eat right. And that is mostly correct but it is a little more than that. People with eating disorders use their eating habits and try to control their body shape in order to deal with stress. These disorders were first found in western countries but now is everywhere. Before we talk about how to help your friend or family with an eating disorder, let us first understand more about eating disorders.
To be thin is to be beautiful. Everyone sometime in their life has thought about eating the right food and dieting. We have been given so much information on eating right that we believe that being thin is not only beautiful but also a healthy thing to do. Eating disorders affect many people across the world but there is very less available information on these disorders. People have a misconception that they are a lifestyle choice but it is a very serious mental illness.

Chapter 1:
What Are Eating Disorders?

Those who struggle with eating disorders have problematic eating behaviour. It involves overthinking about food, weight and the way their body looks. People reduce their intake of food for the fear of weight gain. They might also have episodes of eating large quantities of food in one meal followed by vomiting, fasting and heavy exercise.This disorder also has a damaging effect on family life, work and social life of the sufferer. Eating disorders can affect people of all ages and gender. And it also leads to other mental health problems like anxiety and depression. The person suffering from eating disorders have many medical issues as well. This can also become life threatening. Helping a friend with eating disorder is not a simple task but this article will help simplify the process for you.


Chapter 2:
How Doctors Can Help a Friend with Eating Disorder-

People suffering from this are usually very secretive about their problems and feel self-conscious of their behaviour. That is why most of them prefer to eat alone where no one can observe them. You can help reduce their anxiety by encouraging them to seek help. You could also offer to go along with them on their first visit as a show of support. They might also require your assistance in finding a professional who suits their needs and you can also accompany them for the first few appointments.

A mental health professionals can give appropriate treatment and attention for eating disorder to your friend. A counsellor can understand their thoughts behind their eating behaviours. They can also helps change these thinking patterns that causes such food habits. A doctor will help by restoring the nutrients in the body through medicines as eating very little or no food has a very harmful effect on the body. The dietitian’s role will be to help you make healthy eating a part of your daily routine.


Chapter 3:
Why Do Eating Disorders Happen?

Certain factors may make some people more at risk of developing an eating disorder, such as:

  1. Most people who have a relative who suffers from an eating disorder can also develop this illness. 
  2. Going through a traumatic experience can also increase the risk of eating disorders. 
  3. People who diet a lot or are very careful about their weight can also develop eating disorders. 
  4. In fields where a person has to look slender and slim like modelling, ballet dancing or sports like gymnastics increases chances of an eating disorder. 
  5. Going through major life changes like moving to another place or getting a new job can be a risk factor. 
  6. People who are perfectionists can also suffer from this illness. 


Chapter 4:
What to do after the treatment?

Eating disorder tend to return in patients so it is important to keep an eye for any changes in weight, appetite and body shape. Long term therapy is helpful in not letting eating disorders come back. This happens because the person is afraid to let go of the strict diet they followed. This is because they feel like they are in control of their lives when they do so.
Being there for your friend at this point means a lot to them. They will probably have good days and bad days. During times of stress, the problems may return. Changing the way people with eating disorders think and feel is difficult and time consuming.
Eating disorder can bring a lot of stress for the person as well as people around them. Try out our course on binge eating disorder treatment for evidence based solutions..


Chapter 5:
What to Do If Your Friend Denies Treatment for an Eating Disorder?

If your friend doesn’t want to take treatment for this problem despite your convincing, you will have to take help from others like their parents, partners, relatives or school or college counsellors You can also take help from a doctor if you notice that they are having a lot of physical problems. The doctor can assess the condition and decide if your friend would need to be in the hospital for treatment. You can suggest helplines which help to deal with mental health problems like anxiety and depression. This will also prevent her to take any drastic steps to harm her health further.