How to Support Someone with an Eating Disorder
Eating disorders don’t discriminate. They can affect anyone regardless of size, shape, age, gender, ethnicity, or sexuality. This week marks Eating Disorders Awareness Week #EDAW, an extremely important cause highlighting the impact of eating disorders on the 1.25 million people in the UK suffering right now and to help reduce eating disorder stigma.
Many sufferers find it difficult to seek help; they may be unaware that there is a problem, afraid or ashamed to seek help, or they are ambivalent about giving up their concerning behaviours.
Family and friends play an important role in encouraging those suffering to seek help, it can be difficult to raise the issue with them. You may worry you’ll say the wrong thing, that it’s none of your business, or that you’re insulting the person. But there are ways around this.
How can you support someone with an eating disorder?
⁃ Do some reading before broaching the topic with someone
⁃ Be there when they are ready to talk
⁃ Use distractions during mealtimes
⁃ Try not to centre the conversation around food and/or weight.
⁃ Avoid blame, guilt or shame
You can access talking treatments through the NHS. Your GP should be able to make a referral. However, be aware that there can be long waiting lists on the NHS, and because of this, some people also consider private therapy. Some options include finding a private therapist through the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP). Private therapy isn't an option for everyone because of the cost. You could try to access free counselling services and support groups from Beat (the eating problems charity). We have provided some other free options below.
Free eating disorders support helplines
- Eating Disorder Association: 02890 235959
- Anorexia & Bulimia Care: 03000 11 12 13
- Eating Disorder Support: 01494 793223 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- National Centre for Eating Disorders: 0845 838 2040
- Seed: 01482 718130
- The Mix (for under 25s): 0808 808 4994
- Beat support services:
1. Helpline: 0808 801 0677
2. Studentline: 0808 801 0811
3. Youthline: 0808 801 0711
Other routes of support
- Keep trying to include them – they may not want to go out or join in with activities but keep trying to talk to them and ask them along, just like before. Even if they do not join in, they would still like to be asked. It will make them feel valued as a person.
- Try to build up their self-esteem – perhaps by telling them what a great person they are and how much you appreciate having them in your life.
- Give your time, listen to them and try not to give advice or criticise – this can be tough when you do not agree with what they say about themselves and what they eat. Remember, you do not have to know all the answers. Just making sure they know you're there for them is what's important. This is especially true when it feels like your friend or relative is rejecting your friendship, help and support.
In line with Eating Disorders Awareness Week, hopefully, this will help to inform and create a future where people experiencing eating disorders are met with understanding and compassion.
As always, if you would like any more information on how we can support you right now please don’t hesitate to email us at email@example.com