It can be really hard to reach out for help. It is normal to feel strong feelings like anxiety, embarrassment or shame. We understand that feelings like these can get in the way of talking about eating difficulties.
Tell someone you trust
Ask a loved one to come with you to see your local doctor.
Plan your visit to the GP! Think about what you will tell them and what you will ask them for.
BUT "I'm not that unwell". WHAT IF "I'm not taken seriously?"
When it comes to seeking help, the earlier the better! If you think you need help, you probably do. Trust yourself.
BUT I don't want them to worry.
Your loved ones may already suspect something is wrong. Speaking to them may actually make them worry less.
WHAT IF I'm not "thin enough"?
Eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes.
BUT I feel really nervous about being weighed.
Worrying about weight gain is common for people with eating disorders. There are lots of things that can be done to make being weighed easier for you.
WHAT IF I get forced to go into hospital?
Most people with eating disorders don’t need to stay in a hospital. Most are treated as ‘outpatients’.
BUT eating disorders only affect teenage girls, don’t they?
This is a myth! Eating disorders affect people of both genders and of all ages.
BUT I am embarrassed about my eating and I feel too ashamed to talk about it.
Feelings of shame, embarrassment and guilt are common for people with eating disorders. These emotions are very painful. What we really need when we feel that way is care and compassion.
BUT is it really possible to ever recover from an eating disorder?
Absolutely! Research shows that almost half of those treated for an eating disorder fully recover.
I think I know someone with an eating disorder, what should I do?
Before talking to someone about your concerns for their eating it is helpful to ask yourself these questions.
This can be a very difficult question to answer but it can make a very big difference to the person you’re worried about. You may decide that the person best placed to have the discussion is someone who the young person may feel more comfortable opening to and sharing their feelings with. This could be anyone from inside or outside of the family.
Prepare by learning as much as you can about eating disorders. It can be helpful to speak with a professional before talking to the person you are worried about. The person you care about may be feeling anxious or embarrassed. They may also become angry when asked about their eating. They may be in denial. Or may not recognise that they have an eating problem. Importantly, these feelings do not mean that the problem doesn’t exist. In our experience, feelings of anger or hostility do not last. If you persist in a supportive way most people appreciate the fact that someone cares enough to persevere.
You must approach the person you are concerned about with compassion. Do this in an environment that can support open and calm communication. This means you need to think about when and where you might approach the person. Think about when may be the most unhelpful time to speak with the person. This may be meal times, or times when you are likely to be interrupted or cut short. Be sure to avoid approaching them about their eating at these times.
It’s normal to feel unsure about what to say. Make sure you take some time to work through this, and to think about what you are going to say.
It is helpful to remember that the person you are worried about is likely to be scared of talking about their behaviours or feelings. Actually, they may not even talk about them straight away. The key message to share is that you care about them, that you are worried about them, and that you want to help them.
It can help to practice what you’re going to say with a family member or friend. You might ask them to role-play different responses. This will allow you to practice staying calm and keeping the conversation focused.
An important part of giving the best support is taking care of yourself. It is normal to feel stressed and emotional when you are worried about someone. It’s important to ensure that these feelings don’t get in the way of helpful support. You may reach out to a health professional, connect with another family member or friend, or contact a helpline. There are a number of carer resources available on the Beating Eating Disorder’s (Beat) website or you may want to look at the book, Skills-based Learning for Caring for a Loved One with an Eating Disorder: The New Maudsley Model by Janet Treasure, Grainee Smith & Anne Crane