What to do When Someone You Know May Have an Eating Disorder

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You may have noticed a friend/relative/etc. obsessively counting calories, checking health-food websites, or any other ED-related behaviour. This is a list of recommended steps to take when you have suspicions.

If you're feeling apprehensive about approaching someone to talk to them about this, the best thing to do is become informed.

NEVER EVER EVER JUST IGNORE THE SUPPOSED PROBLEM. At the very least, ask someone else to handle it- NEVER ignore it.

First of all, research. Learn something about what you think this person has. Look out for the warning signs especially (you can find these by searching "warning signs for__________").

Observe. This may not be the easiest, as most individuals suffering from ED's will hide their symptoms, but see if you can spot anything relevant. *never wave a sheet in their face and tell them that they outright have an ED because of this, this and that*

Talk to them privately. Try to work it into a conversation subtly- not deceitfully- and ask something open-ended like "I've noticed that you never really eat lunch or dinner with us anymore, what's up?" (Or whatever's relevant to their behaviours). It's best not to be too specific.

Do your best to;

Understand them.

Support them.

Listen to them.

Be gentle with them

Don't be assertive or assume anything. Just tell them that you're worried and explain why. The key to this is being gentle. Often, someone may not even realize their behaviours count as an ED, so you don't want to assault them with things that you've noticed/seen. Before you have this conversation, make sure you know at least a little about it, but don't bombard them with facts.

Know your limits; make sure that you don't try to fix it for them or be in charge. I'm going to be blunt here; IT WON'T WORK.

This is where it goes two ways.

They could either; open up and explain what's been going on with them- in this case they'd have an ED, or, they somehow tell you that they don't have one.

I'm going to cover what you should do if they affirm your suspicions first, then if not after.


Once they confirm that they think they have an ED, be there for them. There's only a few things worse in the world than being abandoned for allowing someone in on the fact that you have a mental illness. Tell them that they can get through this, and no matter what, don't keep it a secret. They may ask you to keep it under wraps for a while- don't do this.

When they have confided in you, alert a trusted adult as quickly as possible. Your parents, Guidance Counselors, Therapists and their parents are a good place to start.

If you don't want to tell anyone that you're close to, let some sort of support person help you. They can inform the parents without you having to become involved.

From then on, continue to be a source of support. If they're not comfortable talking about the ED, don't talk about it.

They're still the same person, so have normal conversations with them.

Do not under any circumstances try to control their eating habits. It won't work, will likely make them worse, and may ruin your relationship. This is one thing to leave to parents and professionals. As much as you can, educate yourself about what it's like.

You probably have no clue as to how it feels, so be empathetic and put yourself in their shoes.

Please also don't gossip about it. Other people besides professionals and relatives have no right to know about it, and it isn't your place to tell them.


You've talked to them about it and they have somehow told you that they don't have an ED.

Go with your gut here, but still observe everything that happens. If something doesn't feel right or you catch them engaging in an ED behaviour, alert someone immediately.

They could have a legitimate excuse that makes a whole lot of sense, feels right to you, and gives you no cause for concern. In this case, watch a little more, but it's probably fine.

If anything feels off/odd to you at all, I would tell someone. It could turn out to be a false alarm, but it's better safe than sorry.

Be careful not to push the issue. They may not be aware, or hiding it. Don't talk to them about it if they've made it clear that they don't want to.

However, you may have to risk damaging the relationship to save them. Be prepared for them to dislike you afterwards, but just remember, you'll have done what's right.

Just tell someone.

If their explanation checks out, it's probably still best if you observe a little more. Whatever your reason for suspicion was is probably valid and should be erased for the suspicion to be.

To sum it up; be there and be supportive.

If in doubt, TELL SOMEONE.

This chapter was requested by MastaGamerita .
I hope that this chapter will help your friend and that her sister is alright!

(I may have repeated a couple of things- this is just to majorly emphasize the point)

The next chapter will be about the warning signs of every ED. I may have included some of these in the chapters, but now I'm putting them altogether. This will hopefully be posted tomorrow.

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