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5 Ways to Help a Loved One with an Eating Disorder

Do you suspect that one of your friends or family members is struggling with an eating disorder, but don’t know how to reach out to them? If so, my heart goes out to them and to you, because I understand that it is a heart wrenching experience. It is very difficult to watch someone you care about go through something so difficult, and it is even more frightening when you don’t know how to help them. Here are 5 suggestions that might help you approach the situation:

Recognize the Problem

It is helpful to recognize the signs of an eating disorder. The following are some of the things you may notice if your loved one is truly struggling with this issue:

Anorexia Nervosa
• Dramatic weight loss
• Wearing baggy, bulky clothes to hide weight loss
• Preoccupation with food, dieting, counting calories, etc.
• Refusing to eat, especially certain foods, such as carbs or fats
• Avoiding mealtimes or eating in front of others
• Preparing elaborate meals for others, but refusing to eat them
• Exercising excessively
• Poor self-image/Making comments about being “fat”
• Stopping menstruating
• Complaining about constipation or stomach pain
• Denying that extreme thinness is a problem

Bulimia Nervosa
• Evidence of binge eating, including disappearance of large amounts of food in a short time, or finding lots of empty food wrappers or containers
• Evidence of purging, including trips to the bathroom after meals, sounds or smells of vomiting, or packages of laxatives or diuretics
• Skipping meals or avoiding eating in front of others, or eating very small portions
• Exercising excessively
• Wearing baggy clothes
• Complaining about being “fat”
• Using gum, mouthwash, or mints excessively
• Constantly dieting
• Scarred knuckles from repeatedly inducing vomiting

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Ask A Therapist: How Do I Open up Emotionally to my Therapist?

How do I open up to my therapist? I am constantly worried that he might think I’m trying to get attention. I have an eating disorder and I’m slightly overweight according to my BMI. I’ve overexercised, took laxatives, and most recently diet pills. I ended up giving my therapist one session because I was taking so many that it made me fell terrible. I’m just not able to be truly open and honest. He really is a great therapist, and I have a deeper connection with him than most others in my life. I have these feelings outside of therapy, but when I go in, I put on a face that everything is ok. How do I work on this to communicate better?

A: Great question! The emotional pattern of guarding your feelings is likely part of the reason you’re in therapy in the first place. Watch the video below for complete answer.

Take good care of yourself!
Julie Hanks, LCSW

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