I think my friend may have an eating disorder. What would you say to them?

I think my friend has an eating disorder, but I don’t know what to say. Talking to someone about an eating disorder is one of the most difficult conversations you can have.

These ideas, adapted from the National Eating Disorder Association, can help.

• Set up a time to talk, and have your discussion in a private and relaxed setting

• Express your concerns openly and honestly, in a loving, supportive and non-confrontational way

• Talk in a calm and caring way and explain the specific things you have seen or felt that have caused you to worry, and that you think these things may indicate that there could be a problem that needs professional attention

• Ask your friend if they would be willing to explore these concerns with a professional. If you are both comfortable, you can help make an appointment with a counselor, nutritionist or doctor, and go with your friend.

• Avoid conflicts or a battle of the wills with your friend if they refuse to acknowledge that there is a problem, or any reason for you to be concerned. Think of this initial conversation as a starting point. Your friend may be initially defensive, but hopefully will think about what you said. Be sure to share that you are available as a supportive listener.

• Avoid critical or accusatory statements that place shame, blame, or guilt on your friend regarding their actions or attitudes. Do not use accusatory “you” statements like, “You just need to eat.” Or, “You are acting irresponsibly.” Instead, use “I” statements. For example: “I’m concerned about you because you refuse to eat breakfast or lunch.” Or, “It makes me afraid to hear you vomiting.” • Avoid giving simple solutions. For example, “If you’d just stop, then everything would be fine!” Express your continued support. Remind your friend that you care and want your friend to be healthy and happy.

• After talking with your friend, if you are still concerned with their health and safety, find a trusted adult or medical professional to talk to. This is probably a challenging time for both of you. It could be helpful for you, as well as your friend, to discuss your concerns and seek assistance and support from a professional.

National Eating Disorders Awareness week goes through March 3. Access an Eating Disorders Screening Tool, or learn about the Eating Disorder Program at Aurora Psychiatric Hospital.

If you or someone you know may be struggling with an eating disorder, please contact Aurora Behavioral Health Services at 877-666-7223 or visit our web site at Aurora Behavioral Health Services.

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