Information For Friends
EATING DISORDERS ARE EMOTIONAL DISORDERS
Eating disorders appear to be about eating, but are much more than that. People with eating disorders have a preoccupation with food, weight and eating. This helps distract them from their emotions--life stressors, bad relationships, school, etc. When talking with your friend, remember she/he probably is feeling unhappy and somewhat depressed.
TALK ABOUT FEELINGS - NOT BEHAVIORS
It is important to focus on how your friend is feeling rather than what he/she is doing. Try not to focus on behaviors (purging, restricting, taking laxatives, etc.). This may cause your friend to feel defensive and not want to talk openly. Make attempts to express your concerns, saying things like "I'm really worried about you." You might even suggest attending an appointment with your friend to see an eating disorder specialist, or be willing to drive her/him to a support group.
BE SUPPORTIVE AND REASSURING
When talking with your friend, be supportive and reassuring. Let him/her know that you are there to listen. If you feel that talking with your friend is not working, end the conversation nicely and try talking with them another time. Let them know you are available. In a week or two, bring your concerns up again and let your friend know that you want to be supportive. Explain that you haven't forgotten about the problem and would still like to help in any way you can.
Remember, your friend may become defensive or angry. People often feel threatened when others know about their problems. They may feel ashamed or embarrassed about having the problem and/or discussing it with you. Try not to take an angry or defensive response personally.
IT MAY TAKE A WHILE
Eating disorders are significant issues and difficult to overcome. You may not see your friend get well as fast as you would like. Remember, when people arrive in treatment, they may have had their problem much longer than it appears. Often times people have eating problems for several years before seeking treatment.
THE TREATMENT PROCESS
Treating an eating disorder is very individualized. No two people are the same and the amount of time spent in treatment will depend on the significance and severity of the problem. When an individual starts the process, he or she may deal with feelings they have never experienced. When these feelings intensify (depression, anxiety, loneliness, etc.), the behavior part of the disorder (purging, restricting, taking laxatives, etc.), may increase. This is temporary and will subside.