National Eating Disorders Association

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Just Need Some Advice

I have a friend who opened up to me about her eating disorder, although I know it was very hard for her. She told me that she's only told a few other people, and I don't know most of the details, but I want to be as supportive as I can.

I haven't met her in person, but I know her through some mutual friends and speak to her regularly. She's a wonderful person and I love her dearly, so I'd like to help her. She's shown self-consciousness in the past, and I've noticed before that she is very concerned with her physical appearance, and she's compared herself to many of our friends, as well as to me. However, I never connected that to the possibility of an eating disorder until she told me herself.

She wasn't dismissive of her disorder, per se, and it is obvious that it bothers her a lot, but she seems to think that I wouldn't care or that I would think of her differently for it. I assured her that this wasn't the case, but she said that she wasn't wasn't worth my attention at the moment -- I think probably she was trying to change the subject.

My friend lives fairly far away, but she finally has an opportunity to come visit us. She's absolutely ecstatic and can't wait to meet some of us, and we can't wait to meet her -- but now she's concerned because our only other friends who know about her disorder are pressuring her to go out to lunch with us, probably out of concern for her health, and she feels like she needs to conquer her disorder before she visits. I've already assured her that this isn't the case and encouraged her to pace herself, and I intend to talk to the others about it.

At this point, I just want to know if there is anything I can do, as a friend, to help? As I've mentioned, she lives far away and I don't know many of the details about her eating disorder, and she's reluctant to discuss it. I feel like the help I can offer is very limited, and I don't even know what kind of help she needs or what kind (if any) she already has. I understand that she needs professional guidance, and I intend to discuss that with her, but I'm wondering what I can do from my position? We share a mutual interest in lacrosse, so I've considered meeting up with her to play a bit and hopefully get her mind off food, though I don't know if that would necessarily be effective. Does anybody have any advice as to how I should progress?

You are a great friend

Hi thornsparrow -

What your friend is feeling and saying is very typical of someone suffering from ED. We often feel no one is going to take us seriously (a very common fear when it comes to telling our loved ones that we have ED) and think that people are going to judge us. An ED often stems from feelings of worthlessness as well. She feels just like most ED sufferers do.

I am so glad that you are not only willing to help her, but that you are reaching out for information. It's very hard to understand and relate to an ED if you've never had one. Educating yourself on what she is going through and what to say is really going to help her. You don't need to be near her to be an amazing support and comfort to her. Here is some info to get you started:

I included some information regarding treatment. You may want to ask her how she feels about getting professional help. Hopefully she is receptive to that. The best approach is a loving one, which I can tell you already know. It's a huge step that she has admitted it to you - it shows she trusts you. Telling someone that one has an ED is not an easy step at all.

As for her visit, maybe you can talk to the other friends about not going to lunch. Situations like that are extremely stressful for your friend. I realize they are trying to help her, but maybe you can share with them that it's not a good idea to pressure her into eating out. Those kind of steps will come with recovery, but right now that can further push her ED stress.

I love your idea about lacrosse! Those are the kind of activities that you and your friends should do while she is in town. Doing things she enjoys that aren't revolved around food will not only help her relax, but will also help remind her of joyful things that her ED steals from her on a daily basis. I feel you could really be the 'leader' of your group of friends on what to do. You seem to have a natural ability to know what to do. I am so glad you came here for help! Friends like you are exactly what your ED friend needs. She is lucky to have you! I hope this helps and please come back if you need anything else and keep us updated.

Your friend is lucky to have

Your friend is lucky to have someone like you wanting to help her! Even though she lives far away, having support from you is so important, no matter what she decides to do (as eghall mentioned about asking her how she feels about getting professional help).

Another resource, since she lives so far away, you can let her know about is the NEDA helpline. It is an information and referral helpline where she could call to talk to someone about what she's going through or they can provide treatment referrals for professionals or even support groups in her area. It can also be a resource for you to call and ask some questions or discuss other options about what to do for her (1-800-931-2237 M-Th 9-9 EST and Fri 9-5).