I Think My Friend Has an
Eating Disorder While it’s natural to want to help, before you do anything take a moment to consider…
I Just Don’t Understand...
It’s normal to feel helpless.
Not sure what to do, or if you should do anything? Though you can make a positive difference, be aware that your friend may react to your concern with anger or denial. They will discuss their problem when they are ready, you cannot force them to share with you, nor can you force Eating disorders are complex and difficult to understand. them to see a health professional or get help. They may, There is no single reason why a person develops an eating however, be more likely to approach you later if they disorder. Your friend needs you to be accepting and caring. know you are concerned. It can’t hurt for them to know They may not be able to answer the above questions you care. themselves. They may feel guilt, shame and even fear at the idea of sharing this with you. Remember – you can’t fix your friend’s situation and you’re not responsible for it. You can’t control another Remember that your friend is hurting emotionally even if person’s actions. they are unable to admit it. Let your friend know that you are there and willing to listen. You may be feeling as if you just don’t get it… why is your friend feeling this way? Why don’t they understand how much they are hurting themselves? Why won’t they just get help?
Don’t try to force your friend to do anything. Let him/her know that you are trustworthy.
UNIVERSITY OF ALBERTA HEALTH CENTRE
What Can I Do?
There are many things you can do to help. You will want to express your concerns in a caring and supportive way.
HEALTHINFO Remember that anything you do to show your friend that you care will help. • Choose a setting that is private and relaxed to approach your friend. Lay out your concerns in a calm and caring manner. • Avoid approaching your friend as a group – it may appear that you are ganging up on him/her. • Share your concern for their health. Give specific examples of their behaviour and explain why you feel that these things suggest there might be a problem. • Suggest that your friend speak with a health professional. Provide information on how to contact them, and offer to help with making an appointment. • You may feel comfortable offering to go with them to visit a health professional. • If your friend is not ready to speak to a health professional, it will still help to listen. • Avoid conflict. Your friend may be unwilling to admit he/she has a problem. In this case, restate your concerns and be available as a supportive listener. • Don’t blame your friend for their struggle. While you may feel angry, frustrated and helpless, remember that their behaviour is often about coping with and controlling strong emotions, grief or past experiences. • Avoid simple solutions such as “if you’d just eat it would fix everything.” • Evaluate your own attitudes about body image and size. • Focus on talents and attributes that are not appearance related. Avoid comments like “I think you look great”. • Invite your friend to participate in activities that are not focused on food – try mini golf, bowling, a movie, etc. • Encourage activities that promote self-esteem – volunteering, helping others or going for walks. • Call a health professional to ask for advice.
www.ualberta.ca/HealthInfo • Don’t make a big deal about food, and make sure you’re modelling balanced eating based on Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating. For more information about what constitutes a healthy diet, check out “Healthy Eating on a Budget” at www.ualberta.ca/healthinfo. *Adapted from “What Should I Say?” National Eating Disorders Association. www.nationaleatingdisorders.org
Knowing where your friend can get help can be one of the best ways for you to help. Eating Disorders: Where can I get help? University Health Centre University of Alberta Phone: 492-2612 Physicians provide medical services and referral on a walk-in basis; psychiatrists provide counseling. A Registered Dietitian is available to provide information about healthy eating. Student Counseling Services University of Alberta Phone 492-5205 Provides counseling by psychologists. Student Distress Centre University of Alberta Phone: 492-4266 Crisis intervention and referral services, provided by students for students. Provincial Eating Disorder Service Prevention and Promotion Specialist Dianne Drummond (780) 450-7613 Edmonton Eating Disorder Treatment Program University Hospital (780) 407-6239 www.cha.ab.ca/healthsite/pk3149sh.asp National Eating Disorders Association. www.nationaleatingdisorders.org
• Know that most people need professional help to manage an eating disorder; few people can just stop their eating disorders by themselves. 2006
UNIVERSITY OF ALBERTA HEALTH CENTRE