Published: Feb. 21, 2018 By

Group of young, diverse people stand side-by-sideEating disorders can be hard to talk about. They can be even harder to talk about when you’re concerned about a friend. Starting the conversation and connecting a friend to resources is important in getting them the help need.

Read tips for talking with a friend who might be struggling, as well as where to find support.

What is an eating disorder?

Eating disorders are serious conditions that can affect one’s physical and emotional well-being. The impacts of an eating disorder can reach over into one’s work, academics, relationships and social life. They can develop because of negative self-image but can also be used as a way to regulate emotions.

If you’re concerned about a friend, having a conversation is the first place to start.

How do I share my concerns with a friend?

Early intervention is important in helping a friend recover. Here are some tips for starting the conversation:

  • Pick a time when you can talk to your friend one-on-one. Find somewhere comfortable and private and make sure there’s enough time for the conversation.
  • Take responsibility for your own feelings and use “I” statements such as “I’m concerned that ... ” or “I’m worried about you because ... ”
  • Avoid commenting on your friend’s weight or appearance, even positively. Comments such as, “You look great,” or “You don’t need to lose weight” can reinforce negative behaviors.

Allowing time for your friend to process and respond to the conversation can help them feel supported. Approaching the conversation mindfully and compassionately can go a long way toward getting them the help they need. If it doesn’t go as planned, it’s still important to continue to be an ally and connect them to resources.

What kind of resources are there?

Wardenburg Health Services and Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS) provide on-campus assessment and treatment for students struggling with issues related to eating disorders, food, weight and body image. With a multidisciplinary approach, the team helps students address psychological, medical and nutritional needs.

The Body Project is a body acceptance program that helps people resist pervasive societal standards of idealized female beauty that undermine women’s self-acceptance.

More information and resources about eating disorders also are available on the National Eating Disorders Association website.