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If you think there is a loved one with an eating disorder in your life, you will want to do your best to help them. The first thing you can do to help is to learn as much about eating disorders as you can. Eating disorders occur more commonly in females than males. They most often develop in people in their late teens or early twenties but can happen to anyone at any time. If you think that your loved one is one of the 30 million Americans who have an eating disorder, you should intervene.1

Talk to Your Loved One with an Eating Disorder

It may be difficult to do so, but you should raise your concerns with your loved one as soon as you suspect there is a problem. The longer an eating disorder remains untreated, the harder it will be for your loved one to recover.

Your loved one may be aware they have a problem but are afraid or ashamed to ask for help. They may also have low self-esteem and feel that they do not deserve help. By raising the issue with your loved one, you can provide the opportunity for your loved one to talk about the problem.

Managing the Conversation

Find a time and place where you and your loved one are alone and where there will be no distractions. When you raise the issue, remain calm and composed. It’s best to begin the conversation when your loved one is also calm.

Eating disorders are a type of mental illness, so it is important not to be judgmental when talking with your loved one. You will be much more likely to get through to your loved one if you display sympathy and support rather than annoyance or frustration.

If you try to criticize or lecture your loved one with an eating disorder, you are likely to make them defensive. It’s best to calmly point out why you are worried. Be specific about incidents or behaviors that have bothered you. Tell your loved one that you are worried about the potential for health problems, and that you want to help in any way you can.2

Bear in mind that your loved on with an eating disorder may try very hard to conceal the disorder. Your loved one may be dismissive of your intervention, or be angry with you for bringing up the issue. Understand that this is not personal, but a defensive reaction.

Do not expect instant results. You need to be patient, as it may take some time before your loved one with an eating disorder will concede that they have a problem. The key thing is that you have opened the door for further conversations about the problem.

Treatment for Eating Disorders

When your loved one is ready, encourage them to seek treatment. Professional treatment greatly increases the likelihood of long-term recovery. Look for facilities that specialize in treating eating disorders, and remain supportive throughout and after treatment.

Give us a call or come visit our California Eating Disorder Treatment Center


  1. https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/get-facts-eating-disorders
  2. http://umm.edu/health/medical/reports/articles/eating-disorders
How to Help a Loved One with an Eating Disorder
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