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.