Eating disorders are complex mental illnesses that can have a hugely detrimental impact on a person’s all-around health. They carry one of the highest mortality rates of all mental health conditions.
There is no fool-proof formula for how to talk to someone you love about their eating disorder. The most important thing to do if you’re concerned, though, is to talk about it in the first place, since silence or ignoring the problem won’t make it go away. Below, we’ll look at five tips for how to have this difficult conversation.
Right Time, Right Place, Right Words
The best way to approach a person about their eating disorder will depend on that person as well as your relationship with them. Generally speaking, though, you want to choose a place that is neutral for your loved one as well as comfortable. They may not want to talk about this in a public place or somewhere other family members could overhear. When possible, it is best to meet in person since so much of human communication is also done through body language and expression.
In addition, choose a time that is convenient for them. It’s best if neither of you are rushed and have plenty of time to devote to the conversation. Avoid particularly high-stress parts of the day.
Finally, you need to choose your words carefully. Use “I” statements, such as “I feel,” “I have observed,” and “I am concerned.” Too many “you”s starts to sound accusatory and judgmental.
Be Ready to Listen
I’m sure you have many things that you want to say to your friend, but the conversation needs to be led by them if it’s going to have an impact. Really listen to what your friend has to say and how they say it. Repeat their statements back to them to make sure that you’re understanding correctly before you respond.
You may not know what they’re going through, but you can relate to some of their emotions since we all know what it’s like to feel sad, scared, lonely, or anxious. More than anything else you can provide, the most important might be an open ear and your time.
More Compassion, Less Judgement
Your friend has a lot of complicated emotions about what they’re going through, and they are more likely to interpret something you say as judgmental than you might think. They are also experiencing a lot of shame, so the more compassion you can communicate, the better.
Don’t be afraid to let your emotions show, within reason. If you’re having this conversation in the first place, chances are good that you have strong feelings. If you can convey that in a compassionate way, your love might be a motivating factor for your friend to get help for eating disorder.
Be Prepared to Offer Suggestions
You don’t want to have a difficult and emotional conversation without having an idea of where to go from there. Do a little research about help that’s available in your area, such as support groups, treatment centres, and an eating disorder psychologist.
At the very least, be willing to help your friend research some options that they can look into further on their own. Help them ease some of the anxiety and pain by being there while they figure out their next steps.
Follow up and Stay Involved
Getting help for eating disorder will be one of the most difficult things that your loved one does in their life, so be sure to be a source of support and encouragement on their journey to recovery.
They will need a great deal of support from many of the people in their lives. Make sure that you follow up on your conversation with your friend after they have had some time to think it over.
Finally, if you have any suspicion that your friend is an imminent danger to themself, ask them. In the event of an emergency, call public services immediately.