National Eating Disorders Association

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My friend keeps making excuses instead of getting help

My best friend has been struggling with an eating disorder for many years and this past year it has gotten so bad that she is frequently in the hospital with severe life threatening issues with problems caused by it. She trusts me enough to talk to me about her problems and I listen and help her however I can. I tried talking to the doctors at the hospital about helping her but they couldn’t do anything on my word alone apparently. I am very worried I could lose her. I’ve talked with her parents and I’ve tried talking with her doctors but they cannot force her to get help. She is scared to get help and keeps making excuses not to see a doctor or a therapist. I’m not sure what I can do but I do not want to be helpless.

emarsh - Helping.

Boy, this is a difficult position to be in, but I think a lot of other people are in your shoes. Our friend feels safe enough to confide in us, which really does feel like an intimate honor, but when it comes to us actually being able to "do something" to materially effect their situation, it all seems out of our hands.

Which in many senses it is. Because when it comes to recovery, EDs are such a personal thing that if the other person isn't into it, then there's really not much we can do. Or so it seems.

You mentioned this though :

"She is scared to get help and keeps making excuses not to see a doctor or a therapist."

So has she told you what she is scared about yet ? People can worry that professionals will want them to recover. Which isn't so surprising, really. Your friend may have some part of herself that wants to recover too. So one thing she might be frightened of is…that maybe she won't be able to recover, even if she wants to. So if she did try and recover, she'd just end up being a big disappointment to everyone. Which would be something to be afraid of it's true.

Or she may see her ED as the only sort of coping method that she has. And what would she have to turn to if she did give it up ? People can be frightened about that too.

So they're going to have to be willing to take some risks. Because it's true, things might not work out. But they will never know until they take the risk to find out.

In any case, that's something you might be able to talk to her about. What she's afraid of ( "getting fat" doesn't count as an answer! ), and if she's OK with those fears holding her back. And then the idea of being willing to take some risks or not.

For yourself, being able to let go of the idea that there's some magic thing you can do to cure them…that's something I'd try and get used too. "Love is all you need" doesn't seem to work either. But if you can help the person get a better perspective on things simply by talking with you, then that can make a difference I think. "Support" rather than "fixing", if you know what I mean ?

Whatever the case, the idea that she has someone she can talk to, versus the idea of having no one at all…you are helping out already I think, even if you're not seeing a whole lot of changes.

So have faith in that if you can ?