Strategies for Family and Friends

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What can I do?

The family and friends of someone who is suffering from an eating disorder can often feel alienated or powerless to help. While the most effective form of support and intervention will vary from person to person, here are a few guidelines.

  • Educate yourself: You may not be able to understand what your friend or loved one is going through, but you can set the stage for open and productive communication by learning more.
  • DON’T stay silent: Eating disorders are serious and potentially life threatening; the longer they go on, the harder they can be to recover from. Therefore, if you suspect your friend or family member is struggling, it is important to address it.
  • But DO plan when to speak: Having a conversation with your friend or family member about their disordered eating can be incredibly difficult, especially the first time you bring it up. Find an appropriate time and a safe space to express your concerns. Don’t impulsively accuse your loved one in the moment if you see them behaving in a unhealthy way, but instead make time for a supportive discussion on neutral territory.
  • Continue communicating: Bringing up your concerns wont automatically lead to a solution and you may even encounter some resistance from your friend or loved one. Don’t be frustrated or place blame if he/she is not ready for recovery and certainly don’t try to enforce a “cure” yourself.  The important thing in this stage is to continue checking in and to be a resource for care.
  • Remember that you cannot force someone to seek help. But if you are concerned for your friend or family member’s safety it may be appropriate to seek guidance from a medical professional.