How to Help a Friend or Loved One

KNOWLEDGE  Know the warning signs of anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder and learn as much about eating disorders as you can! A good place to start is the “Resources” link on this website.

CONSULT Discuss your concerns with a resource available to you such as an RA, dean, nutritionist, counselor or other health professional.

PLAN Make a plan to approach the person in a private place where there is no immediate stress and time to talk. Be prepared with specific examples of what you have noticed and reasons that you are concerned.

LISTEN Carefully listen to what your friend is saying and accept what she/he says in a non-judgmental manner.

BE CARING Present in a caring and compassionate way what you have observed and what your concerns are. Keep the discussion focused on current behaviors without criticizing the person’s value system. Avoid using a tone of accusation and blame.

EMPHASIZE HEALTH Convey your concerns about the person’s health and functioning—don’t just focus on weight or appearance.

HAVE RESOURCES Be aware of community resources and what to do in an emergency. Provide information about resources for treatment. Offer to go with the person and wait while they have their first appointment with a counselor, physician or nutritionist. Ask them to consider going for one appointment before they make a decision about ongoing treatment.

HAVE PATIENCE Expect to be rejected at first. It’s frightening to admit you have a problem that is out of control and the thought of giving up the behavior is even more frightening. Make sure you leave her/him with the impression that you do think the situation is serious and that you’d like to speak to her/him again about it.

KNOW YOUR LIMITS Do not get over-involved in terms of trying to offer “therapeutic” advice. These are very complicated, dangerous, and often difficult-to-treat disorders that generally require a team approach to treatment. You do not want to become a substitute for professional care.