Many teens have friends who face eating disorder problems. No matter what kind it is, you have to be there for your friend and help them to fight it. But be careful, because getting over any kind of eating disorder is very hard and if you do something wrong, your friend will think that you've betrayed them. So what should you do if your friend has an eating disorder?
Eating disorders are dangerous, because they affect body and mind. They lead to different health problems and even death, if they are not treated properly and in time. There are many signs that indicate eating disorders, for instance:
- Having an obsession with weight or food
- Avoiding hanging out with friends or going out to eat
- Going on extreme diets
- Going often to bathroom, especially right after eating something
- Wearing baggy clothes to hide body and shape
- Taking stimulants, diet pills, steroids, herbal supplements, etc
- Facing health issues, like fainting, easily bruising, pale face, being cold all the time
So what should you do, if you understand that your friend has an eating disorder? First of all you need to talk to your friend about what's going on. Choose a quiet place, where nobody would see or hear you. Be gentle as possible and try not to hurt your friend by the conversation. Don't start it like “You've got some problems”. You need to show your support, that's why use “I” sentences. For instance, tell “I really value our friendship and I'm glad to have you as a friend. But I've noticed that you no longer come to parties and don't hang out with me any more. I miss you and the time when we were sitting in the cafeteria. What's wrong with you and can I help you?”.
It's great if your friend will tell you what's the problem, then you can try to solve it by offering a company to talk to: teacher, principal, parents or school counselor. But your friend's response is likely to be very defensive. Your friend is likely to say that nothing happened or even may blame you, that you're jealous of their thinness, and you have so many pounds to lose. This way your friend will push you away, but you can't escalate into an argument. Starting a fight won't do anything good at all. Your response should show, that you care about the way your friend feels. Tell you friend, that you will always be there, if they want to talk to you.
For the next couple of days don't try to help your friend. It's your friend who has to come to you first. And meanwhile don't take the reaction of your friend too personally. Eating disorder isn't only about health problems, it's also about mental illness.
If your friend comes to you within a few days to talk, then your goal is reached. You need to look for an adult to talk about the disorder your friend has. And while people try to help, stay with your friend and support them. Don't talk about food, diets, body shape (no matter is it yours, your friend's or celebrity's), don't give advice, like you'd feel better if you'd eat more. You don't know anything how eating disorder can affect your friend's mind, that's why your advice, that seem natural to you, can be perceived like offensive by your friend.
Now let's see what you should do, if your friend still don't come to you and the situation seems not to change at all, well, it changes, but it's getting worse. You have to talk to your friend's parents, but it's better to involve other adults, may be your parents, a teacher or principle. Adults never believe words they hear from teenagers, and it's easier for them to understand the situation, if it's explained by the other adult.
After your friend learns that you've spoken to their parents, there might be an argument between two of you. Your friend might even tell, that you're a betrayer. You know it's not truth, and the faster your friend will get some help, the better it's for their health.
Thankfully, there is treatment for eating disorders. And while your friend goes through it, you have to show your support. When your friend will gain normal weight again, don't think that it's over. Eating disorders often causes inner conflicts and stresses, and it's what the most difficult to handle. Support your friend, call as often as possible and spend a lot of time together. Treatment lasts for a long time, and when the time to come back to normal life again will come, adaptation will be much easier. Your friend will share the problems with you, instead of relapsing into a familiar coping mechanism of eating disorder.
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