There are many different types of eating disorders currently affecting people around the world, from anorexia nervosa and bulimia to binge eating disorder. Currently it is thought that these mental illnesses are affecting over 1.6 million men and women in the UK, so chances are you know someone suffering.
If you are worried about a friend or family member, it can be incredibly hard to muster up the courage to speak to them about it. Fear of them becoming angry, making the situation worse or wrongly accusing them often means illnesses like these stay hidden for years.
The first thing to remember is that an eating disorder is not a crime – it’s an illness. You are not accusing, you are sharing a concern for their health. Below are some tips to help you find the right way to speak to someone suffering from an eating disorder.
- Prepare what you are planning to say and exactly how you want to say it. Remember to approach the issue with sympathy and concern, not anger or frustration.
- Choose an appropriate time and place to explain that you’ve noticed changes in their behaviour and are concerned.
- Be prepared for their reaction – it may be one of anger or sadness, and they may say hurtful things. The illness affects the sufferer’s thoughts, so they may honestly believe there is nothing wrong.
- The sooner they get help, the more chance they have of a full recovery so be sure to speak out as soon as possible.
- The majority of people who have recovered say they are glad that someone noticed and reached out, even if they didn’t feel that way at the time.
Be sure to get support yourself by talking to a professional or joining a support group. It can be tough supporting someone with an ED, so be sure to look after your own wellbeing as well as theirs.
If you are suffering from an eating disorder or know someone who is, you could benefit from discussing any issues you may have with a counsellor. For more information, please see our page on Eating Disorders.
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