The three most common eating disorders are Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, and Binge Eating. Each disorder is characterized by a number of behaviors related to diet, nutrition and exercise.
What to Look For
Each eating disorder is characterized by different signs and symptoms that can help you identify if an eating disorder is present, however, there are some common behaviors that can help you identify if someone you know may be suffering from an eating disorder.
Signs to look for:
- Withdrawal from friends and family
- Paying constant attention to food and/or weight
- Exercising constantly without a specific training goal
- Obsession with fat
- Distorted body image
- Intense fear of gaining weight
- Over-use of laxatives or diet pills to lose weight
How to Help a Friend
Approaching a friend who you may think has an eating disorder is an uncomfortable and scary situation. The important thing to remember is to make that person feel understood and cared for. It is very important to not make that person feel judged in any way.
Tips on how to approach/help a friend:
- Approach your friend gently and persistently. Expect the person to deny that they have a problem and become angry and resentful toward your intervention. Be persistent despite their hostility.
- Emphasize positive attributes about them. Focus on the positive.
- Focus on your concern for their health and happiness instead of specific behaviors.
- Don't make any comments about anyone's (especially the friend you are trying to help) weight, body size or weight loss.
- Don't contribute to conversations focused on food, body size, calories, etc.
- Be supportive. Show your friend they you believe they can recover.
- Show them how much you care and will not ignore their destructive behaviors.
- Don't give advice. You are trying to get them the help that they need, not to treat them. Giving advice can often lead them to become defensive and shut down.
- Encourage your friend to seek professional help.
- Offer to go with them to get the help they need. This can make them feel more comfortable and reassure you that they are getting the help that they need.
- Don't blame yourself if your friend is unwilling to acknowledge the problem or seek help. It may take many attempts from you before they agree to get help.