National Eating Disorders Association

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I need advice with

I need advice with my girlfriend who has been suffering with an eating disorder since she was young. She’s been on this struggle for about 5 years or so. She was diagnosed with anorexia but recently she told me she feels as if she is beginning to develop binge eating disorder. I’m not really should what I should do. I advised her to go to her doctor and make an appointment or speak with her psychiatrist but she didn’t really say much but continued on about her suspicions. Any tips to support her or comfort her ? I’m not really sure what to say and I wouldn’t want to say the wrong thing.

What to say.

It sounds like she is concerned alright. BED is when people eat lots of food, but never do anything to offset the calories, so the outcome is often a big weight gain. To be frank, if your GF has anorexia, large weight gains would be her greatest psychological fear.

So does it seem like she is actually gaining weight ? And uncontrollably stuffing herself with food ?

Sometimes people with anorexia honestly do lose their ability to rationally assess how much they are eating. If people are eating very little, eating anything close to a normal amount may seem like a horrible binge to them. If that's the case, and she's still not really eating that much, we can find ourselves thinking that they are making a big deal out of nothing.

But rather than trying to reassure her that she's not eating as much as she thinks, I think it's her anxiety that you'll want to pay attention to. Because it really does sound like she's anxious.

If you were to ask her what she was anxious about, it's likely she would say "getting fat". But "getting fat" is generally code-talk for other deeper sorts of feelings. A fear of losing control over their lives, a fear of being inadequate as a person, an overall fear of "Not being good enough". So if she's willing to talk, it's those psychological fears and feelings that which you'll want to try and turn the conversation to, rather than going with fat-talk and food and eating.

As far as "saying the wrong thing" is concerned, when it comes to EDs, almost by definition it's pretty hard not to say the wrong thing. The person is likely to interpret anything you say as meaning that you think they are fat. Not always of course, but you'll want to do everything you can to not be lured into making comments about her appearance. You may have had experience with her trying to do that ? She'll make some comment about being fat, and then you'll be tempted to respond with something along the lines of "No you aren't". Which is, of course, you just trying to make her feel better, when what you really think is...that she's fat. In any case, try not to get sucked into those kinds of conversations. Because in lots of cases there's little you can say that will be interpreted correctly.

So if it were me, I'd go with the idea that she's anxious. Because I think that's really what she's trying to tell you.

And no need to say "Everything will be fine" because it might not be. Mostly I'd just agree that feelings like that must be rough to deal with.

Which really does show that you get it. And that's really what people want mostly : To be understood.

Keep writing ?