National Eating Disorders Association

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Catch 22 help. Is talking always best or could it make things worse?

My best friend is the most inspirational person I know. I don't tell her enough but she is amazingly intelligent, and beautiful, and wise, and when she's around I am my best person - I'm infinitely lucky to call her my friend, I don't know what I'd do without her. She's more than a best friend really, I'm closer to her than anyone else in the world - she's a sister, my family.

She suffered from anorexia - I realise that is written in the past tense, I'm not sure how to word it? Maybe I should say she still suffers? But her condition is a lot better then it was when she was at her worst, so sometimes it feels like she doesn't really. And I guess the reason for that is because she isn't in denial, she doesn't hide it and talks about it. We even joke about it quite regularly.

She has been through recovery (or perhaps she is still in recovery? I don't quite understand this process/know if there is an end to it). She's has lots of friends, she is very successful in her studies, and it generally doesn't effect her day to day life in a debilitating way.

Over the past year her weight has been relatively stable. She has a lot of insight and isn't in denial anymore, and has a healthier relationship with food now (she never stopped eating - she restricted).

We are very close, although we live in different cities we speak everyday. She talks about how she feels, I talk about how I feel, we don't have secrets. Sometimes I notice in pictures, or when I see her, that she has lost some weight and looks a little different, or feels a little different when I give her a hug.

My first worry is that I'm too astute to what she looks like because I'm terrified she might become really poorly again, and it's probably not a big deal and little fluctuations will happen - this is what she lives with now, and I shouldn't mention it because it could be triggering and cause more harm/make the situation worse.

But my second worry is that if don't say anything, then she might relapse/lose too much weight without thinking it's a big deal, and I could have prevented it by mentioning something in the first place. I feel a bit trapped because I really worry and I hate the thought of her having bad days, or worse still going into denial about eating habits/anything because I think it's the most damaging thing in the world.

I guess I'm worried that if I mention it, I'll push her away and she'll stop talking/get worse. But if I don't it will get worse and I will be left regretting not saying something. But then what if I'm just overreacting and it's probably nothing?

I hope this hasn't been triggering for anyone reading. I'm just feeling a little torn and incredibly confused, and looking for some helpful advice.


Worried friend.

Hi Worried friend,

Hi Worried friend,
First of all, it's clear that you care so much about your friend and she is lucky to have someone who is so supportive and loving! It can be really hard to bring up sensitive topics like this, but I'm glad you two have good communication and are so close. I think that being honest and communicating your concerns from a compassionate point of view is a good way of letting your friend know you're worried about her without making it seem too aggressive. Also letting her know that you will be there if she does want support in seeking out professional help or anything else can be helpful in a caring, non-threatening way.

Here are some links that might be helpful:
Parent/friends toolkit:
Family and friends network:
What should I say:

The NEDA Helpline (1-800-931-2237 M-R 9-9 F 9-5 EST) is another great resource that can help direct you to other options.
I hope this helps - wishing you the best!

Hey, love. I empathize with

Hey, love. I empathize with your situation; it's one I'm familiar with, too. Firstly, keep a close watch on your thoughts/feelings, and make sure you're not assuming too much personal responsibility over her recovery/relapse/etc. Putting that kind of pressure on yourself can be damaging to you, and at the end of every day your friend's recovery is first and foremost her responsibility. Secondly, you say that you two have pretty open communication, and that she talks openly about her disorder with you. Maybe you could ask her how she's been doing with her eating disorder/recovery lately. You could even express your concern gently, in the least triggering way - maybe even just saying, "I've been concerned that you might be struggling lately, and I want you to know that I'm here to support and love you in the ways that I can." And if you're nervous about this conversation with her, don't hesitate to reach out to the NEDA Helpline that Nan mentioned!

Your friend is certainly blessed to have you. Take care, and keep us updated!
Anna Naomi

Thank you

Nan and Anna. Your words really helped. Anna I think sometimes I do assume too much personal responsibility - and you're right my friend needs to own her recovery, the best thing I can do is help her do that right? I guess just by telling her she's loved, and that I'm always here.

I spoke to her and asked how everything has been recently in terms of eating, she said everything was absolutely fine and she thought she was more 'nourished' (she never uses words that could be triggering/terms that explicitly mention weight) at the moment because she's had a cold so has been a lot more inactive than usual. I guess it goes against what I thought but I trust her and if I notice anymore changes I could bring it up again.

Thanks you both again, so much. It's so refreshing and helpful to talk to people who have insight and experience with this sort of thing.



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