Chloe provides some top tips on how to be a supportive friend to someone going through the difficulties of an eating disorder.
- Chloe Murray
I have never had a friend going through an eating disorder. However, I have been that friend and I know what it’s like to have people worrying about you and trying to help. Here are some top tips for those of you with friends who are experiencing the difficulties of an eating disorder.
1. Make sure your friend knows that you're always there for them, no matter what.
They might not want to talk about their feelings but just knowing that you're supporting them is the best help there is!
2. Your friend might say things they don't mean.
They might distance themselves from you and not make an effort. In the depths of an eating disorder, nothing else matters other than getting thinner. Please be patient with them, it’s hard for them to be rational and to distinguish between their own thoughts and the thoughts of their eating disorder.
3. Your friend might lie about what they have or haven't eaten which can be frustrating.
They are only following the strict rules of their eating disorder and at times, for them, it can seem like lying is the easiest option. You have to understand that this isn't your friend talking, this is their eating disorder, which makes them do or say things they don't want to.
4. Try not to threaten them into eating.
My friends always used to threaten to "tell the teachers" if I ever skipped lunch at school in an attempt to make me eat. This just pushed me further away from them, leaving me feeling alone and unloved. At the end of the day it is down the sufferer to get better and the first step for them is wanting recovery.
5. Keep persevering. Please keep inviting them out. It can be frustrating if an invitation always gets declined. Your friend may find social activities difficult, especially if they involve food. It can be hard for them to escape their "comfort zone" and venture out from a routine in which they feel safe in. Don't give up! Your friend will probably feel guilty and left out for missing out on any social events and will hope to be included in future.
6. Don't treat them differently.
Your friend is not defined by their eating disorder. Although it may try to mask his/her former personality, they are still the same person they used to be. Recovering from an eating disorder is all about finding other things, other than losing weight that make you happy. You can help your friend realise all the other wonderful things in life that are worth fighting for!
7. Set a good example.
Try not to talk about weight/calories/food or exercise. It is easy for someone with an eating disorder to feel guilty. They often compare themselves to others and if they feel that eating more/exercising less than others that will cause excessive guilt and perhaps become jealous of you.
I'm sure it can be so hard to support a friend going through an eating disorder and I can assure you that it is so extremely difficult for them too. I was lucky enough to have a huge support network cheering me on in my recovery and it helps a great deal! I can honestly say, without my friends and family encouraging me and inspiring me daily, putting up with my tantrums and being patient with me, I'd still be consumed by anorexia. Recovery is possible, but it takes more than just the sufferer to fight!
For more information on how to find support, click here.
For more information on how to support a friend going through a metal health issue, click here.