Anorexia Nervosa · Bulmia Nervosa · Eating Disorder · Tips for Friends · UOIT Mental Health Services

Tips for Friends: Eating Disorders

According to dictionary.com, an eating disorder is ‘any variations of disorders characters by severe disturbances in eating habits.’ A person who is suffering from an eating disorder may focus on their size and weight and unhealthy amount, and an aversion to food that becomes unhealthy and can affect their physical, emotional and physiological health.

Here are some eating disorders a person may be diagnosed with:

  • Anorexia nervosa: is the fear of eventually becoming fat or obese, and going to great lengths to prevent this from happening. For example, someone with anorexia nervosa may exercise excessively, or starve themselves regularly.
  • Bulimia nervosa: also known as binge-purge syndrome, is when someone eats an excessive amount of food and then deliberately causes them self to be sick or using laxatives to get the food they consumed out of their system.
  • Binge Eating: is when someone feels compelled to over eat.

There could be any number of reasons for a person to develop an eating disorder, including but not limiting to: a family history of eating disorders, being continually criticized about someone’s weight, appearance, or eating habits,  particular experiences that prompt someone to feel like they are not in control of their life, and difficult relationships in their life. The development of an eating disorder is also greatly focused on how the media portrays beauty, as young people feel pressured to look like the models, actors/actresses, and celebrities that they are shown on a daily basis.

An eating disorder is not a life long disease, as treatments for eating disorders are available. Although, overcoming an eating disorder is a uphill battle. Having support from family and friends is crucial to a person’s recovery, and it is important that the person wants to get better.

Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Don’t focus on the negatives, including a person’s weight and eating habits.
  • Let them know that you are there for them, but respect their need for privacy. Let them tell you what they can, and don’t pressure them to share more than what they are ready to share.
  • Do not comment on their appearance, even if it is a compliment. A person with an eating disorder is only too aware of their body, and even a positive comment could only cause their obsession to continue.
  • Try to steer the conversation away from their desire to be thin, and instead ask them to explore their feelings and why they feel the need to be thin and why being fat frightens them.
  • Avoid giving them demands about eating, including trying to trick them into eating. This can only make things worse, as someone with an eating disorder may feel out of control and the eating disorder could be their way of controlling something in their life.
  • Finally, remember that an eating disorder cannot just be fixed with a snap of your fingers. Avoid using phrases such as ‘you just need to eat, and you’ll feel better’ or ‘it’s all in your head, you’re beautiful the way you are!’

For further information on eating disorders, please visit NHS choices and helpguidge.org.

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