Friend With An Eating Disorder

I've had a couple female friends of mine confide in me that they think they may be/be becoming anorexic... What should I do? How should I react? How can I help them? I've tried my best to be really supportive that they look great how they are and things like that, but I can't understand why they'd be doing this (they're both very attractive girls) so I don't really know what to say...

I guess to make it more general: how can one help a friend with an eating disorder?


Certified Shitlord
I know how you feel. I too had a friend confide in me the same thing. Sometimes the best thing you can do is just be there for them. Do what you're doing, remind them that they're beautiful the way they are, that they don't need to change, that if someone doesn't think they look good the way they are, that they're the ones missing out.


Registered Member
Here's an excerpt from the ANRED (Anorexia Nervosa and Related Eating Disorders) site. You should consider doing something along these lines as soon as possible. I hate to sound like a broken record and once again suggest that you try to get them professional help the way I did in the suicide thread, but it applies here as well. Nothing you can say as you try to positively re-enforce them will mean much to them. They'll still see themselves as somehow disfigured even if they're in great shape.

If your friend is younger than 18,

Tell a trusted adult -- parent, teacher, coach, pastor, school nurse, school counselor, etc. -- about your concern. If you don't, you may unwittingly help your friend avoid the treatment s/he needs to get better.

Consider telling your friend's parents, even though it would be hard, why you are concerned. S/he may be hiding unhealthy behaviors from them, and they deserve to know so they can arrange help and treatment. If you cannot bear to do this yourself, ask your parents or perhaps the school nurse for help.

If the person is older than 18,

Recognize the boundaries. Legally the person is now an adult and can refuse treatment if s/he is not ready to change. Nevertheless, reach out. Tell her/him that you are concerned. Be gentle. Suggest that there has to be a better way to deal with life than starving and stuffing. Encourage professional help, but expect resistance and denial. You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink -- even when it is thirsty -- if it is determined to follow its own path.

A note for boyfriends and girlfriends

If you are in love with someone with an eating disorder, by all means provide whatever support you can, but we suggest you postpone making a binding commitment until s/he is recovered. People with eating disorders can be physically and emotionally attractive. Their vulnerability and fragility can appeal to a partner's instincts to protect and help. This can be a trap.

Some people never do recover from an eating disorder. Don't link your life to a person with problems unless you are willing to put up with them for the rest of your life -- or theirs. It might come to that. It is far wiser to wait until you can see that your life partner will be able to hold up her/his end of the commitment contract.

The kind of change required for recovery is extremely difficult. Kindness and love, as beautiful as they are, will not by themselves heal your beloved. S/he needs professional treatment too.

When you get the time take a look at ANRED's site Here

Good luck.



A Darker Knight
Depending on how serious it is, consulting a professional would be smarter. They know which buttons to push, and regular advice that you and I would give might just make things worse.

Anonym0uz Bitch

If your friend is serious about what they think, then you should probably tell their parents, or a close adult friend of yours, an authority figure would be best.

They need to talk to them, or you could get a group of your friends and older adults to talk with the person, if it is really bad, as in her health is seriously at risk then you should seek help quickly, and she will probably need to go see someone.


I hope Hoosier Daddy won't ream me on this one because I'm not going to say to call in the troops immediately, but stick with me, OK? We'll get to that later, I promise. :+)

Most people who ask for advice in a forum probably already know the fire drill. They come here because they want to know how to handle things while they are assessing the situation and making the decision and they are probably worried about losing or alienating the friend if they act too rashly. That certainly won't help either of them. So, I'm going to try and address that first.

First, before we do anything we are all going to agree that eating disorders are very serious and complex obsessive-copmpulsive behaviors and they are very dangerous even fatal. They need to be treated by professionals and it takes a lot of work to break the obssessive-compulsive cycle and the false body image. So your goal is to assess the situation and then start to think about ways you can steer them toward some treatment.

Now, your friend has confided in you that she "thinks" she's anorexic. That's a good sign. She's admitting the possibility of a problem and seems is probably still amenable to finding out if she is. If she is anorexic she's probably in an early stage. This will make things easier.

The first thing I would do is talk to my friend. Ask her why she thinks she's anorexic. Talk to her about dieting and weight and and exchange your ideas about it with each other. Have a good whine fest about how the media are evil and make girls think they have to be so thin, or the fashion implications or whatever interests her. You might even go somewhere for a meal and watch her eat while you're talking about all this.

After a nice talk, ask her if she'd like to get tested to see if she really does have anorexia. Explain that a professional psychiatric test will determine if she's really got anorexia or something more mild. Sometimes people will get a general anxiety over weight, like after a break-up or just because there are esteem issues. They key is getting tested to determine what's going on. Treatment is still needed either way. Just different kinds.

If it's just general anxiety and esteem issues about weight that's a lot easier to treat and she'll be relieved if that's the result. Hopefully after all this you can help her decide to take action and get checked by a professional.

The two of you might want do a little research about it and discuss what you find so she knows what she might be in for. Find a local support group or online support group with local members who can suggest a good clinic. They are not all created equal. Find out who liked their doctor and who had a good experience.

If she really wants to know, then she'll pursue it. Your job is to support her. Things will work much better if she makes the decision on her own and she'll need a support network to get through it.

Now the troops. If the reasoning falls apart and you are concerned, you may have to take action on your own. Observe your friend and look for the warning signs. You can find lists on the net, but the major symptoms are basically:

- She look like she's getting dangerously thin.
- She lost a lot of weight recently and hardly eats
- She has a distorted body image. IOW, everyone around her is whispering that she looks horrible and way to thin but she saying she still needs to lose weight or still feels fat or that some body part like her thighs are still too huge when she obviously is too thin and nothing is huge. That's how you know it's really bad. If she's obviously looking very bad, you need to get her in somwhere for treatment ASAP.
-In full-blown anorexia, the person is in denial that there is anything wrong with them when everyone around them knows there is.

When you see denial, there is nothing the average person on the street can do and that's when you know you have to bring in the posse. Start talking to friends, parents, co-workers, teachers, clergy, doctors, hotlines. Try to arrange an intervention.

Most of all, good luck and best wishes for your friend. I hope she finds peace with herself and pride in herself. These are the keys to a happy life.


Registered Member
I think we're on the same page. The key is to convince your friend to seek help. If you have to use a little passive persuasion to accomplish that goal I would say that's acceptable. Unlike the suicide thread where I was so adamantly against some of your advice, here there is usually no immediate threat to the afflicted individuals life. Unless, of course you see the signs way to late, in which case, immediate professional intervervention is a must. Good post, ubikk.



Hoosier Daddy said:
I think we're on the same page. The key is to convince your friend to seek help. If you have to use a little passive persuasion to accomplish that goal I would say that's acceptable. Unlike the suicide thread where I was so adamantly against some of your advice, here there is usually no immediate threat to the afflicted individuals life. Unless, of course you see the signs way to late, in which case, immediate professional intervervention is a must. Good post, ubikk.

Thanks for the compliment. I'll take a break from the advice section for a bit. Think about how to approach it better. Not the kind of blogging I usually do. I'm always talking about other stuff. Movies, politics, science and technology, books, you name it. This is a little new to me.

Thanks for the opportunity, too.


Registered Member
I spent years going to Overeater's Anonymous meetings three times a week. (1989-1995). I also began to go to Mental Health a little and another professional group. Did the binge-and-purge and did the eating, eating, eating till a burp would cause a Ralph. I would suggest OA maybe the person might get something there that will help.