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How to Support Someone with An Eating Disorder

Like many disorders we can experience, eating disorders can be extremely tough. One of the main difficulties of a disorder that is centered around food is that you cannot cut off the stimulus. We need food daily for our health and to not eat ever again is not an option when it comes to treatment, which is why experiencing an eating disorder can feel extremely lonely and debilitating. 

We often want to support our friends and loved ones when they are going through a hard time, and often, where there is a clear end in sight, it is much easier for both the person struggling and the person supporting to navigate their way through the issue together. But what happens when that path seems less than linear, and the problem is based around something essential to life?

This article will discuss some of the ways in which you can support someone with an eating disorder.

Do Not Try to Guess What is Best

First and foremost, speaking to a person you wish to support is the best course of action before beginning any kind of support. It is easy to assume what we think we would want in a similar situation, but that assumption could also be extremely damaging – not only to your relationship but also for their recovery too. Ask them how they feel, what they think might be helpful, what their professional treatment plan is, and how they would like to be supported.

Anything you can hear directly from them will be better than what you might assume to be the right thing to do.

Give Yourself Time to Listen

In relation to encouraging them to talk to you, it is important you are in a position to listen. This is not only without judgment but also without the intention of giving any unsolicited or misinformed advice. Some people just need someone to truly listen to them, to have someone to vent to, and someone who they know won’t judge or criticize them. Trust is important too, so make sure they are aware that your conversations will not go any further. 

For those who believe their friend is sharing distressing and serious information, read more about bulimia inpatient treatment and find out about the help they can receive. 

Remember to Rest

Supporting someone is not always easy and should not be taken likely. It is common for those in support roles to find their mental health can suffer, so be sure to honor yourself and your feelings, check in with yourself regularly, and do not push your own boundaries. Remember, it is absolutely okay and understandable if the supporter also needs support. All therapists have their own therapists!

Keep Trying to Include Them

One of the hardest things about having a mental illness, including an eating disorder, is the common assumption that those who are suffering do not want to do anything. More often than not, it is absolutely not the case. Having an eating disorder can be extremely isolating at the best of times, so even if you do not think your friend will want to join you, ask them anyway. It will remind them they are cared about, and make them feel human.

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