How to approach someone with ED

The Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness

How to help your friend:

DO'S
  • Increase your knowledge about eating disorders (request information packets, read books, attend seminars).
  • Talk with the person about your concerns in a loving and supportive way. It is important to discuss these issues with honesty and respect.
  • Talk with the person at an appropriate time and place - in private, free from distractions.
  • Encourage the person to seek professional help as soon as possible. Suggest that she/he see someone who specializes in eating disorders (a physician, therapist or dietician).
  • Be prepared that the person may deny that she/he has a problem. If so, and if she/he refuses to get help, it will be important to tell someone else about your concerns. If your friend is under 18, her/his parents need to know immediately.
  • Listen with a nonjudgmental ear.
  • Talk about things other than food, weight, and exercise.
  • Be available when your friend needs someone, but remember, it is okay to set limits on what you can and cannot do.
  • Hang in there! It won't be easy

DONT'S
  • Don't try to solve her/his problems or help with the eating disorder on your own. Get help from others.
  • Don't confront your friend with a group of people, in front of a group of people.
  • Don't talk about weight, food, calories, or appearance. Do not make any comments on what she/he looks like.
  • Don't try to force or encourage your friend to eat. Do not get into power struggles.
  • Don't let her/his peculiarities dominate you or manipulate you.
  • Don't gossip about her/him to others.
  • Don't be scared to talk with her/him.
  • Don't expect to be the perfect friend - Reach out for support when you need it.
  • Don't expect your friend to be "cured" after treatment. Recovery can be a long process.
  • Don't keep this a secret for your friend. Remember, her/his life may be in danger.

How to Help Your Child:

DO'S
  • Increase your knowledge about eating disorders (request information packets, read books, attend seminars).
  • Talk with your child about your concerns in a loving and supportive way. It is important to discuss these issues with honesty and respect.
  • Talk with your child at an appropriate time and place - in private, free from distractions.
  • Seek professional help as soon as possible. Arrange to see someone who specializes in eating disorders (a physician, therapist or dietician). You can receive national and international referrals from various eating disorder organizations.
  • Be prepared that your child may deny that she/he has a problem.
  • Listen with a nonjudgmental ear.
  • Talk about things other than food, weight, and exercise.
  • Be available when your child needs someone, but remember, it is okay to set limits on what you can and cannot do.
  • Hang in there!- It won't be easy.

DONT'S
  • Don't try to solve her/his problems or help with the eating disorder on your own. Get help from others.
  • Don't confront your child with a group of people, in front of a group of people.
  • Don't talk about weight, food, calories, or appearance. Do not make any comments on what she/he looks like.
  • Don't try to force or encourage your child to eat. Do not get into power struggles.
  • Don't blame yourself for what is happening to your child.
  • Don't let your child's peculiarities dominate you or manipulate you.
  • Don't be scared to talk with your child.
  • Don't expect to be the perfect parent - Reach out for support when you need it.
  • Don't expect your child to be "cured" after treatment. Recovery can be a long process.
  • Don't panic: Look for the help you need. It is available.

How to Help Your Student:

DO'S
  • Increase your knowledge about eating disorders (request information packets, read books, attend seminars).
  • Talk with your student at an appropriate time and place - in private, free from distractions and other students.
  • Encourage your student to tell their parents.
  • Encourage your student to seek professional help as soon as possible. Suggest that she/he see someone who specializes in eating disorders (a physician, therapist or dietician).
  • Be prepared that the person may deny that she/he has a problem. If your student is under 18, her/his parents need to know immediately.
  • Listen with a nonjudgmental ear.
  • Talk about things other than food, weight, and exercise.
  • Be available when your student needs someone, but remember, it is okay to set limits on what you can and cannot do.
  • Hang in there! It won't be easy.

DONT'S
  • Don't try to solve her/his problems or help with the eating disorder on your own. Get help from others.
  • Don't confront your student in front of the class.
  • Don't talk about weight, food, calories, or appearance. Do not make any comments on what she/he looks like.
  • Don't try to force or encourage your student to eat. Do not get into power struggles.
  • Don't gossip about her/him to others.
  • Don't be scared to talk with her/him.
  • Don't forget to reach out for support when you need it.
  • Don't expect your student to be "cured" after treatment.* Recovery can be a long process.
  • Don't keep this a secret for your student. Remember, her/his life may be in danger. If she/he is under 18, her/his parents need to know immediately.


I'm not afraid of storms, for I'm learning to sail my ship.
~ Aeschylus
This page was last updated on May 30th, 2012
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