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How to Help a Friend

Do’s and Don’ts if you think someone may have an eating disorder


  1. Increase your knowledge about eating disorders (request information packets, read books, attend seminars).
  2. Talk with the person about your concerns in a loving and supportive way. It is important to discuss these issues with honesty and respect.
  3. Talk with the person at an appropriate time and place — in private, free from distractions.
  4. Encourage the person to seek professional help as soon as possible. Suggest that they see someone who specializes in eating disorders (a physician, therapist, or dietitian).
  5. Be prepared that the person may deny that they have a problem. If so, and if they refuse to get help, it will be important to tell someone else about your concerns. If your friend is under 18, their parents need to know immediately.
  6. Listen with a nonjudgmental ear.
  7. Talk about things other than food, weight, and exercise.
  8. Be available when your friend needs someone, but remember, it is okay to set limits on what you can and cannot do.
  9. It may not be easy, so hang in there!


  1. Don't try to solve their problems or help with the eating disorder on your own. Get help from others.
  2. Don't confront your friend with a group of people, or in front of a group of people.
  3. Don't talk about weight, food, calories, or appearance. Don’t make any comments on what they look like whether it’s positive or negative.
  4. Don't try to force or encourage your friend to eat. Do not get into power struggles.
  5. Don't let their peculiarities dominate you or manipulate you.
  6. Don't gossip about your friend to others.
  7. Don't be scared to talk with your friend.
  8. Don't expect to be the perfect friend — Reach out for support when you need it.
  9. Don't expect your friend to be "cured" after treatment. Recovery can be a long process.
  10. Don't keep this a secret for your friend. Remember, their life may be in danger.

Do's and Don'ts compiled by Tiffany Clinton-Taylor, MS, NCC, LMHC