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March 30, 2020

How to Talk to a Loved One About Their Eating Disorder

Family and friends can play an important role in identifying eating disorder behaviors and symptoms. Although it is not always easy to discuss eating disorders, expressing your concern is instrumental in getting your loved one the care they need.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when talking to a loved one.

Keep Lines of Communication Open

Be open and honest with your loved one. Now is not the time to avoid or ignore the situation. Early detection and intervention are important factors in full recovery.

Use “I” Statements

It is important to use “I” statements when talking about your concerns rather than “you” statements which can sound accusatory causing your loved one to become defensive. Focus on behavioral changes that are not related to eating or weight, which can be easier for your loved one to see and except.

Be Prepared for a Negative Response

It is normal for people struggling with an eating disorder to be defensive, irritated, and/or angry when confronted by a loved one about their behaviors. Some people are glad that someone has noticed that they are struggling. Everyone responds differently and that is okay.

Express Your Concerns

Share your concerns about behaviors and changes that you have observed (something you saw or heard), explaining why you are concerned.

Avoid Overly Simplistic Solutions

Eating disorders are complex mental illnesses that require XYZ. By oversimplifying the solution (i.e. saying “just eat”), you are not validating your loved one’s struggling which can cause them to become defensive, frustrated, and feeling alone or misunderstood.

Stay Calm, Caring, Consistent, and Nonjudgmental

Remind your loved one that there is no shame in admitting that they are struggling with an eating disorder (or any other mental health problem) and that asking or accepting help is a brave decision.

Take the Next Step

Every journey begins with a single step. Our Intake & Admissions Team consists of master’s level clinicians who are here to help you and your loved one through every step of the processes – providing support, education, and guidance to ensure that your loved one receives the care they need.