How to Help a Teenage Friend with an Eating Disorder or Self-Destructive Behaviors
Finding out that your friend has Eating Disordered or other self-destructive behaviors can be scary, upsetting and confusing. What can you do to help? How can you help? Is it your place to say something? As a friend, this can b e a tricky situation to navigate, so here’s some advice from an Eating Disorder therapist.
If your friend hasn’t already been transparent with you on their behaviors and your concerns are based in suspicion, I would start by asking your friend if they are going through something that they want to talk about and allow them to respond. Point out the behaviors that are making you suspicious (ie. long sleeves on a hot day, or never eating lunch, etc etc). Try to express your concern for them in a very gentle way, do not put them on defense. Let them know that you are there for them to support them or for whatever they need. Encourage them to seek out a counselor at school or to talk to their parents. If you feel comfortable, offer to go with them to do so.
If they refuse to seek out help on their own or deny their behaviors altogether yet you still have cause for concern, here comes the tough part. Don’t let this sit in your hands. That is too much of a burden for another teen (or person at all) to carry and it is not helpful. The suffering person needs to get help, and sometimes they don’t want to reach out themselves. If they refuse to get help or talk to their parents, I would go to a counselor yourself at school or even express your concerns directly to his/her parents if you have that type of relationship with them. It’s important to note that you may get your friend or upset or mad. They may even not want to be friends with you anymore. I know this is tough, but this likely will be temporary. They are in an unhealthy mindset right now and will likely be appreciative of your loving actions when they are on the path to recovery.
wSome things to be aware of and NOT TO DO in this case:
1. If they are suffering with an Eating Disorder, do not bring attention or any focus to their weight or weight changes. This is an incredibly fragile subject and can make the person worse.
2. Do not say things such as “just eat” or “just stop eating.” If it were that easy, noone would have an Eating Disorder, it’s just not that simple.
3. Do not say things such as “I understand.” This phrase is well-intentioned, however can backfire. Unless you have actually been through whatever this person is experiencing, chances are you don’t fully understand. A person who is suffering can be left feeling more alone and misunderstood when hearing this from a person they perceive not to fully understand. You can say something like “I know I don’t understand, but I can’t imagine the pain you must be feeling.
I hope you found this post helpful! If you know anyone else who could benefit from reading this, please share with them. If you have any questions, concerns or requests for future posts, please leave a comment or message me privately.
I wish you wellness and understanding on your journey to finding your State of Balance!
Also, check out my Youtube Channel for more inspiration!
You may also find these posts helpful:
Snapshot of the Different Eating Disorders
What to Say to Someone You Feel May Have an Eating Disorder
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Binge And Restrict Cycle
Eating Disorder Specialist
Healthy Self Vs. Eating Disorder