Parents Guide to Eating Disorders in College

Guides

How to Help Someone With an Eating Disorder

If someone you know is showing signs of an eating disorder, don’t stay silent. Talk about it. Having a conversation is the first step to getting help.

  • Do: Try to be calm and non-judgmental.
  • Don’t: Focus on her appearance. Comments like “you are too thin” or “you look terrible” can be fuel for the fire, even if you mean them in a helpful way.
  • Do: Focus on health. Let her know how worried you are, and how dangerous her unhealthy behaviors have become.
  • Don’t: Accuse or demand. Stay away from reproachful language such as “You need to stop,” or “You are making everyone worry,” which can make her feel guilty or defensive.
  • Do: Be honest and use supportive “I” statements like “I am concerned, I hope you’ll let me help you,” or “I am worried, and I’m here for you. I want you to be safe.”
  • Don’t: Back off after one talk. To be helpful you will need to be supportive and persistent.
  • Do: Be prepared to listen, even if you don’t like what you’re hearing at first. People with eating disorders often deny that they have a problem, or have complicated feelings about getting better. It is important to take her feelings into account and make her feel heard.
  • Do: Encourage her to get into treatment. Research what treatment options are available and what the best options are for your child.
  • Don’t: Wait. Seeking treatment is the first step to recovery, and the sooner someone gets into treatment, the better the outcome.