Information for Family & Friends:
How to Help
1. The most helpful thing you can do is to take care of yourself first and do not get caught in their drama.
A. Be honest and genuine with the person about your feelings
B. Model self-acceptance and good eating habits
2. Gather information
A. What is it that leads you to believe the person has an
B. Is it weight loss, excessive exercising, vomiting, laxative abuse?
3. Learn about resources (referral list at end of packet)
4. In a caring, gentle and non-judgmental way, approach the person about whom you are concerned. Early detection can make a big difference in treatment, so DO NOT WAIT!
5. State "I am concerned about (the observed behavior). This may be a symptom of anorexia nervosa or bulimia. Here is information about where to get help with this. I will help you get, or do what I can to make it possible for you to go."
6. If the person decides not to get help, and you are confident that the problem exists, assess what your options are.
7. When you have no further options, be friendly and open to the possibility that the person may want your help in the future. Do not support the person's unhealthy behavior or attitude, yet still accept the person. Be honest about your assessment, but when you have done all you can, it is important to recognize that fact and back off.
8. Recognize that friends and relatives cannot cure the person. Do not force the person to eat or monitor eating activities. Require the person to take responsibility for his/her actions.
9. Try to focus away from eating and weight and encourage activities and ways of relating which add to feelings of self-worth.
ask questions rather than assume and listen, listen, listen
appreciate their openness and trust in sharing their distress with you
share your own struggles, be open and real. Be you
support and be available
give them hope that with help, patience and some work they can free themselves from this disorder
recognize their strengths!!!
know that people who are malnourished often function at a lower mental capacity than they would if they were healthy. Therefore, reasoning with someone with an eating disorder may not be effective.
recognize that attempts to cover up the eating disorder is part of the disorder; do not take it personally. Shame and denial is often experienced in association with the eating disorder behaviors.
try to avoid...
telling them they are crazy
saying "you're so thin!" to an anorexic - this is the ultimate compliment to him/her and only reinforces the destructive behaviors
saying "I wish I could have anorexia, just for a day or two."
- most people with eating disorders would not wish it on their worst enemies, it is painful and difficult
following them around to check their eating or purging behavior
ignoring or rejecting them
telling them to quit this ridiculous behavior - it's not that easy or they probably would have done it
feeling compelled to solve their problems
treating them as if their worth as persons depends on how thin they are