National Eating Disorders Association

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treefrog2020
Concerned about a friend

My very close friend has been struggling with a few things in her life and has gone through a lot more than a 19 year old girl should ever have to go through. This year she took a second gap year before going to university, planned to travel yet seems to have let all those travel dreams fade and has no interest in it any more. She is not happy with her job and isolates herself. I try and make plans with her and she will either say that she will do x with me such as go for drinks, go for a walk, just chill and hangout but then she will cancel last minute or she will not respond to me until it is too late to do anything. Other times she wont answer me, and she never seems to reach out to me anymore to make plans. It worries me because she is isolating herself completely from friends, she did tell me she was taking time but I don't think that it is healthy to isolate yourslef for months. I understand she wants time for herself and I am not mad that she won't spend time with me, I am just concerned. She works out a lot too, and besides going to the gym and work she doesnt leave her house really unless she is running errands. Her younger sister reached out to me on because she is worried for her sister/my friend as she has notices she is very mad all the time, asks her/her dad for money weekly (avg $50), she hides out in her room in the basement, and jsut doesnt seem herself. And then the sister sent me a video of all the garbage from foods which she has hid in her cold cellar downstairs. Her sister says she sneaks the food in through the side door, and has heard her throwing up a few times, but she is also not home all the time because she is in school and at extra curriculars. Her sister says she will eat a bunch of these foods and then hide it in bags and throw it up. She has been vegan for quite some time, partialy for dietary purposes, so a lot of the food she has hidden is not vegan. She also doesnt eat when at work, which is from 9-5 (I worked with her this summer so I just noticed it). I saw her today as I ran into her at the grocery store and in her basket (I didnt observe too much because i didnt want to make her feel any more uncomfortable) but she had ice cream cones and chip bags, and more under that I didnt get a look at. I could tell she felt super uncomfortable and she hid the basket, so i kept it short and left. I just dont know what to do because I dont know for sure that she has an eating disorder, but i am really concerned as she is not acting like herslef and is shutting people out. When I saw her I noticed she has broken out in acne on her face and her face is quite puffy. I want to support her so badly because we are so close and I also miss spending time with her. I just don't know how to go about any of this in a way that won't upset her, or she lose trust in me.

BobJ48
TreeFrog.

I'm so sorry to hear about your friend ! But really, if you are on sites for people with eating disorders, you'll often hear them complain about everything that you've mentioned. How they've lost all their friends, how they isolate themselves and never get out of the house, and how they've lost interest in all of the things that once interested them in the past.

So I can tell you with some assurance that it's quite likely that your friend isn't any happier about this than you are. And that she's probably not oblivious to the effects that it's having on her either.

So really, it's like they have fallen under the power of an evil spell. One that tells them that if only they can exert enough self-control, and lose those next few pounds, then somehow things will be wonderful for them…at some undisclosed time in the future. Which…they can sort of believe in the beginning, but I suspect that your friend is past that stage now. Which is what usually happens sooner or later. Rather than it being an exercise in self-control that they can gladly congratulate themselves for, it turns into an inescapable nightmare instead. Depression and despair can then start setting in, and as you've seen, an urge to isolate themselves too.

To be honest, your efforts to help her re-engage with the world, and in normal daily activities are good ones I think. Go for a walk, go to a play, go out and do anything really. As you've seen, she's likely to make excuses, but I think it's OK to tell her that you won't take no for an answer. You may want to let her know that you won't push the eating thing as a part of the activity, but you could go and drink coffee or something, and she'd probably be OK with that.

Of course we aren't doctors or therapists, but we are qualified to be friends I think, and getting her out and doing the sorts of things that friends do together is a useful and proper role I believe.

She'll have to be OK with allowing these things to happen of course, but you never know : If she does get out with you, you may find her thanking you and admitting that she had a good time.

Connec
Got miracles?

My friend who is in her 60’s has been restricting eating for years. I met her in a yoga class about eight years ago and did not observe/connect until spring 2019 when I learned she was in hospital. (when I became her health care proxy). Divorced and long-estranged from only family, a brother who lives thousands of miles away, has been isolating for years (apart from this particular yoga class which no longer exists). She does not admit to an eating disorder while in last 6 months her weight has dropped significantly. Won’t consent to in-patient (or out-patient) program. What is available in this upstate NY area is not great anyway. She has some cognitive issues and may be slipping towards dementia.
Her primary doctor of many years and the eating disorders physician at local hospital don’t seem to have a plan, but just encourage her to gain weight. (I know because my friend no longer drives and I bring her to doctor visits). I contacted a psychotherapist who said therapy would not work with her brain so malnourished. Looking for suggestions. Thanks.

BobJ48
Connec - Your Friend.

This sounds like a difficult matter alright. While you friend clearly has an issue, if she refuses to see it as a problem, I don't think there is much that anyone can do to make her gain weight voluntarily. If she had some sort of clear medical issue that was weight related which threatened her life, perhaps she could be hospitalized for that. But that she is simply thin apparently by choice, and getting thinner; I'm not sure that the medical community would hospitalize someone against their will for a matter like that.

However, you did mention that she was isolating herself, and if you are friends enough with her to actually want to spend time with her, you could play a positive role as far as helping her stay connected to the outside world is concerned. Just by spending time with her, and perhaps the two of you doing some activities that keep her engaged in some of the more stimulating aspects of normal life.

Eating disorders among older individuals is more common that most people realize, so what you are seeing in her is probably less out of the ordinary than it may seem.