Sometimes, things take a turn for the worse when you are around someone who has an eating disorder.
If you notice signs of disordered eating (or what doctors call restrictive dieting), such as frequent weight checks or calorie counting, then it is important to speak with the person about these symptoms.
You may also see changes in their behavior, moods, and activities. These could include instances of self-harm or attempts to avoid people that can be thwarted by lack of food or limited activity time.
When faced with this kind of situation, there are several ways to help prevent more serious health consequences. Here are some tips for how to help someone who is developing an eating disorder.
This article should not be used to diagnose or treat any disease, condition, or illness. It is for informational purposes only. You are advised to seek professional medical care if you believe you have been diagnosed with an eating disorder or suffer from any other health problem related to body image.
Keep an open line of communication
It is very difficult to understand why someone would want to hurt themselves while at the same time trying to help them. However, one thing that can get lost in the process is that simple connection.
Since most people enjoy consuming foods, talking about your daily meals can sometimes feel like a waste of time. This is particularly true if you do not eat yourself.
Do not try to be a therapist
Sometimes, people develop eating disorders because they feel that life is too difficult or stressful and food becomes their tool for self-comfort.
If you are trying to help someone who has an eating disorder, do not assume that you know what treatment works best. In fact, research shows that most approaches do not work!
The first step in helping anyone with any kind of mental health issue is to acknowledge that there is a problem and address it directly. This can mean talking about the symptoms, finding the cause, and giving appropriate support.
Sadly, psychotherapy alone does not usually treat eating disorders. It may make things worse if the person feels even more stressed by discussing their illness. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) may help, but this requires them to recognize negative thinking patterns and replace them with healthier ones.
While these strategies may help reduce some symptoms, they will probably never cure an eating disorder.
Sometimes people develop eating disorders because they feel that they do not measure up to societal standards of beauty, or they worry about how their weight is affecting their life.
Becoming obsessed with your own looks can be both frustrating and uncomfortable for you, but it may also make you feel insecure and even depressed.
For someone who has an eating disorder, this feeling of insecurity is often extended towards themselves as well. They might avoid going out due to fears of being judged by others, or fear of what kind of food they should eat.
These thoughts usually go away once the person in question recovers from their eating disorder, but there are ways you can help them through these stages.
Provide constant reminders that you care about them and want them to get better. Give them positive comments and encouragement, and let them know that they are beautiful just the way they are.
Do not force anything upon them, but if they ask you to watch them together while they binge-eat, agree to do so.
This could be tough at times, but remember that they need help more than ever before. Try to be understanding and sympathetic to see them through the process.
Do not force them to do anything
Sometimes, people develop eating disorders because they feel stressed out or overwhelmed by other things in their life.
It can be difficult trying to help someone who is developing an eating disorder. The main thing you need to realize is that this person may actually be experiencing emotional distress due to something outside of you.
There are several reasons why someone might develop an eating disorder. It could be stress related, like if they lost a loved one, got divorced, or were injured at work. Or it could be due to financial issues, such as losing a job or being asked to take a pay cut.
All these things contribute to mental health problems and sometimes, those with eating disorders will suffer from depression or anxiety along with their disordered habits.
Get a doctor’s opinion
It is important for friends to recognize that this may not be just a casual eating disorder. This can sometimes be hard to determine, as some people will go through tough times and then seem back to their normal self.
Therefore, it is very important to get a doctor’s diagnosis to confirm whether or not there is indeed an eating disorder present. Only then can appropriate treatment be given.
It is also important to realize that most eating disorders are totally reversible when received proper treatments.
Encourage them to get therapy
For someone with an eating disorder, seeking help is crucial to recovery. While most eating disorders are diagnosed at young adulthood, there are instances of people who develop symptoms later in life.
People with eating disorders often feel that they can’t be helped because you can never make someone who has an illness eat enough food or exercise regularly. This thinking only makes their conditions worse as they then feel even more guilty for not changing how they look or helping themselves improve their health.
Sadly, this type of thinking can sometimes fuel self-harm or suicide. Both behaviors are risk factors in developing anorexia or bulimia.
Therapy is usually cost effective, confidential, and can aid in tackling other underlying mental health issues like depression or anxiety. It may also help identify potential contributing factors suchas stressors in your life or relationship problems.
While it might be difficult to see changes immediately, don’t give up! A lot of progress can be made if patients come into treatment early.
Help them find a therapist
Finding a good eating disorder therapist can be tricky, but it is definitely worth your time! Luckily for you, we have gathered some helpful information here for you to consider.
Most mental health professionals are trained in psychotherapy, which means they use talk as one of their main tools in helping people heal. Therefore, being able to recognize if someone has an eating disorder is important so that you can determine whether or not this person will feel comfortable speaking to you about such things.
It’s also very important to look for signs of suicidal behavior, as eating less frequently than normal and refusing food and drink is a risk factor for suicide. If you notice any warning signs like these, make sure to get help quickly.
If you do come across someone who seems to suffer from compulsive eating or other symptoms of anorexia nervosa, bulimia, or binge-eating disorder, don’t ignore them.
Instead, try talking to them about how they are feeling and see what happens. Also, ask if there is anyone else they should speak to for help, as well as asking if they want professional help.
Listen without judgment
If you are trying to help someone who has an eating disorder, your first step should be to listen. Really listen to them – not with judgement or advice, but just to understand what they are going through.
This could mean listening to them talk about their fears of weight gain, fear of being weighed, fear of not having enough food, or fear of vomiting. It could be listening to how they try to control their eating by making sure they eat every bit of food, or how they have to make themselves eat even when they do not want to.
It can also include hearing stories of times before the person had the eating disorder, as well as conversations that may indicate it is getting worse. All these things contribute to what makes up an eating disorder for people.
Some other symptoms of eating disorders include acting very secretive around food, skipping meals, refusing to let anyone watch how much you eat, and limiting how much time you spend in front of the mirror or talking about your shape or size.
Just because something seems abnormal does not mean that it is. Some people develop eating disorders at a young age and grow out of it as they get older. For others, it can go away and then come back more severe.
Whatever situation this person is in, there is always somewhere they can turn for support. There are many resources available to aid in recovery, so don’t hesitate to look into them.
Ask how they are feeling
It is very important that you understand what your loved one is going through. You can begin by asking how they are feeling physically, as well as emotionally.
Are they experiencing mood swings? Are they crying frequently? If so, try to figure out why.
It may be because of something said or done recently, or maybe because they cannot sleep. Your loved one may feel guilty for not doing certain things, like eating or exercising.
They might also have trouble concentrating due to emotional changes. There may be worries about whether or not they will get enough food tomorrow.
Lastly, some people who suffer from binge-eating disorder develop symptoms of purging — engaging in behaviors such as self-bruising or taking excessive amounts of water to achieve weight loss.
This article has discussed several ways to help your loved one deal with their emotions. Try talking to them directly, offering supportive gestures, and encouraging them to share their feelings.