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Advice on How to Help an Anorexic Friend

written by: Suzanne Florin • edited by: Paul Arnold • updated: 2/17/2011

Anorexics tend to deny the existence of their eating disorder, and this leaves loved ones feeling very concerned, yet clueless about the right way to help an anorexic friend. Here are some tips and advice that you may consider in extending your love and support to your friend with anorexia.

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    337px-Emo girl 03 Do you wish to help a friend who is suffering from anorexia, yet you have no idea how to approach him or her? Have you been feeling like an outsider who is clueless about the right intervention to give an anorexic friend?

    Approaching an anorexic friend can be quite a challenge - you do not want to risk saying the wrong words and affecting their chances of making a good recovery or jeopardizing your friendship.

    So how do you help an anorexic friend? What are the effective ways to approach a friend suffering from anorexia?

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    Help an Anorexic Friend by Being Well Informed

    You have to understand the emotional, psychological, and physical issues that anorexics deal with in order to fully comprehend what could be going on in your friend's mind. It would help if you read articles or books on anorexia, and/or ask psychologists, counselors and nutritionists about this eating disorder. By understanding the problem, you will be better equipped to help your friend.

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    Avoid Discussing Food and Weight

    These are two touchy subjects for anorexics because of their preoccupation with body shape and calories. You can never help an anorexic friend by asking what they've eaten, if their weight is improving or how they feel about gaining or losing weight. They will more than likely feel threatened and irritated by such questions.

    Also, avoid making comments about what their body looks like, or the amount of food that they have on their plate. Telling an anorexic that he or she looks very thin will only make them feel lauded for succeeding in their struggle to lose weight. In addition, commenting positively about weight gain can cause your anorexic friend to feel depressed, and might provoke them to further cut down on their food intake.

    Instead of overtly showing your concern be courteous and respectful of their actions. This is not to say that you are encouraging them to continue with their anorexic lifestyle; you are merely making them feel that you earnestly care and are there if they want to open up about their struggles. Do not be a member of the "food police"; be a concerned friend who does not scrutinize every move.

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    Help an Anorexic Friend by Being a Good Listener

    Offering mounds of advice is more often than not an annoyance, particularly if your anorexic friend is not even asking for your suggestions or advice.

    Help an anorexic friend by being a good listener rather than a know-it-all preacher. Letting them know that you are always ready to listen, and that you can be a trusted confidante will make them feel your love and support.

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    Be Encouraging and Optimistic

    If your friend asks you to help find recovery resources do your best to be encouraging. That is why it pays to know about websites and therapy centers that specialize in helping anorexics get back on their feet. If your friend confides in you about a relapse encourage them to keep moving forward and offer your assurance that you are with them every step of the way. Remind your friend that the road to recovery is not always easy, and that taking a tumble once in a while is par for the course.

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    Conclusion

    The most important thing that you need to remember in helping an anorexic friend is to be empathetic - be caring and understanding and never make them feel like a failure. An open mind and heart is what he or she needs most and that is why you should do your best to offer your love and support without smothering or threatening your friend.

    And as a friend, you also have to be aware of the challenges that an anorexic person goes through on their road to recovery. Your friend might fall back from time to time, but this should not discourage you. Have faith in your friend and be optimistic about their efforts (and yours) in overcoming anorexia.

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    Resources

    Approaching Someone You Care About, http://www.something-fishy.org/helping/yourapproach.php

    Anorexia Nervosa, http://familydoctor.org/online/famdocen/home/common/mentalhealth/eating/063.html

    Photo Credits: Wikimedia Commons/suzanne88