How Do I Help Someone With Anorexia?

Reviewed Nov 23, 2016

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Summary

  • Confront the person in a loving but firm manner.
  • Help the person to get professional help.
  • Learn all you can about the disorder.

When someone you know shows signs of anorexia it can be very scary. You can easily see the damage being done to your friend or loved one. Sadly, she will likely be in denial about her own state. This is what makes the disorder so dangerous. If you think someone you know has anorexia, it is vital that you reach out to her. The illness can be treated but early detection is very important.

Know the signs

Anorexia can be deadly. It slowly starves a person’s body. The person eats very little and therefore has a very low body weight. In this way it differs from bulimia or binge-eating disorder (BED). Those illnesses involve severe over-eating and a normal to high body weight.

Some of the signs of anorexia include:

  • Being very thin without knowing it
  • Having a distorted body image
  • Being obsessed with controlling food intake
  • Being very fearful of weight gain
  • Cutting food into tiny pieces
  • Weighing food
  • Weighing oneself throughout the day
  • Over exercising
  • Vomiting after eating
  • Overusing diet pills, laxatives, or enemas
  • Missing three or more menstrual cycles in a row
  • Having thoughts of killing oneself

You may worry that you are overreacting. Maybe your family member is just going through a phase. Maybe your friend is just taking dieting a little too far. This should not keep you from confronting the person in a loving manner. Even if she does not yet have the disorder, your involvement might prevent her from getting it.

Show your support

Make sure your friend or loved one knows you are there to support him. Take time to talk with him and more importantly, to listen. Do not judge him or say things to make him feel guilty. Do not tell him to just stop exercising so much or to start eating more. Instead, encourage him to seek professional help. Offer to help him make an appointment. If he resists, do not try to force him. Let him know that you will be there for him whenever he is ready.

Another way of helping is to learn all you can about the illness. This will help you better realize what she is going through. It will also allow you to better express your concerns. Search online for articles on the disorder from trusted sources. Beware of websites that promote thinness through purging or extreme exercise and dieting. You can get a lot of good information from the National Eating Disorders Association.

Diagnosis and treatment

A person thought to have the disorder should be checked out thoroughly by a health team. A physical exam and lab tests can make sure there are no other medical issues. A mental health check can see if the person has other things like anxiety or depression. The combined results from these tests will help direct the course of treatment.

One-on-one talk and behavior therapies are the most common treatments. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is used to change unwanted thoughts and actions. Group and family therapy help provide much needed support. Guidance on healthy food and proper diet is also very important. Drug therapy is not used to treat the illness itself. However, it may be helpful in treating anxiety and depression issues that may also be present.

Anorexia is a serious illness. The sooner a person is diagnosed and treated, the better. Some people with the disorder will have to be hospitalized. IVs and feeding tubes may be needed to bring their weight up to a safe level. Once a healthy weight is reached, recovery can begin. Treatment will take time and relapses may occur. A committed health team and strong support from family and friends will go a long way toward healing.

Resources

National Eating Disorders Association
What Should I Say?
How to Help A Friend with Eating and Body Image Issues
NEDA Toolkits

Office on Women’s Health
Anorexia Fact Sheet

By Kevin Rizzo
Source: National Alliance on Mental Illness, www2.nami.org/Template.cfm?Section=By_Illness&Template=/ContentManagement/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=149438 and www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions/Eating-Disorders; Office on Women’s Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, http://womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/anorexia-nervosa.html; National Eating Disorders Association, www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/anorexia-nervosa, www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/what-should-i-say, www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/how-help-friend-eating-and-body-image-issues; National Institute of Mental Health, www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/eating-disorders/index.shtml
Reviewed by Maria F Rodowski-Stanco, MD, Associate Medical Director, Beacon Health Options

Summary

  • Confront the person in a loving but firm manner.
  • Help the person to get professional help.
  • Learn all you can about the disorder.

When someone you know shows signs of anorexia it can be very scary. You can easily see the damage being done to your friend or loved one. Sadly, she will likely be in denial about her own state. This is what makes the disorder so dangerous. If you think someone you know has anorexia, it is vital that you reach out to her. The illness can be treated but early detection is very important.

Know the signs

Anorexia can be deadly. It slowly starves a person’s body. The person eats very little and therefore has a very low body weight. In this way it differs from bulimia or binge-eating disorder (BED). Those illnesses involve severe over-eating and a normal to high body weight.

Some of the signs of anorexia include:

  • Being very thin without knowing it
  • Having a distorted body image
  • Being obsessed with controlling food intake
  • Being very fearful of weight gain
  • Cutting food into tiny pieces
  • Weighing food
  • Weighing oneself throughout the day
  • Over exercising
  • Vomiting after eating
  • Overusing diet pills, laxatives, or enemas
  • Missing three or more menstrual cycles in a row
  • Having thoughts of killing oneself

You may worry that you are overreacting. Maybe your family member is just going through a phase. Maybe your friend is just taking dieting a little too far. This should not keep you from confronting the person in a loving manner. Even if she does not yet have the disorder, your involvement might prevent her from getting it.

Show your support

Make sure your friend or loved one knows you are there to support him. Take time to talk with him and more importantly, to listen. Do not judge him or say things to make him feel guilty. Do not tell him to just stop exercising so much or to start eating more. Instead, encourage him to seek professional help. Offer to help him make an appointment. If he resists, do not try to force him. Let him know that you will be there for him whenever he is ready.

Another way of helping is to learn all you can about the illness. This will help you better realize what she is going through. It will also allow you to better express your concerns. Search online for articles on the disorder from trusted sources. Beware of websites that promote thinness through purging or extreme exercise and dieting. You can get a lot of good information from the National Eating Disorders Association.

Diagnosis and treatment

A person thought to have the disorder should be checked out thoroughly by a health team. A physical exam and lab tests can make sure there are no other medical issues. A mental health check can see if the person has other things like anxiety or depression. The combined results from these tests will help direct the course of treatment.

One-on-one talk and behavior therapies are the most common treatments. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is used to change unwanted thoughts and actions. Group and family therapy help provide much needed support. Guidance on healthy food and proper diet is also very important. Drug therapy is not used to treat the illness itself. However, it may be helpful in treating anxiety and depression issues that may also be present.

Anorexia is a serious illness. The sooner a person is diagnosed and treated, the better. Some people with the disorder will have to be hospitalized. IVs and feeding tubes may be needed to bring their weight up to a safe level. Once a healthy weight is reached, recovery can begin. Treatment will take time and relapses may occur. A committed health team and strong support from family and friends will go a long way toward healing.

Resources

National Eating Disorders Association
What Should I Say?
How to Help A Friend with Eating and Body Image Issues
NEDA Toolkits

Office on Women’s Health
Anorexia Fact Sheet

By Kevin Rizzo
Source: National Alliance on Mental Illness, www2.nami.org/Template.cfm?Section=By_Illness&Template=/ContentManagement/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=149438 and www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions/Eating-Disorders; Office on Women’s Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, http://womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/anorexia-nervosa.html; National Eating Disorders Association, www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/anorexia-nervosa, www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/what-should-i-say, www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/how-help-friend-eating-and-body-image-issues; National Institute of Mental Health, www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/eating-disorders/index.shtml
Reviewed by Maria F Rodowski-Stanco, MD, Associate Medical Director, Beacon Health Options

Summary

  • Confront the person in a loving but firm manner.
  • Help the person to get professional help.
  • Learn all you can about the disorder.

When someone you know shows signs of anorexia it can be very scary. You can easily see the damage being done to your friend or loved one. Sadly, she will likely be in denial about her own state. This is what makes the disorder so dangerous. If you think someone you know has anorexia, it is vital that you reach out to her. The illness can be treated but early detection is very important.

Know the signs

Anorexia can be deadly. It slowly starves a person’s body. The person eats very little and therefore has a very low body weight. In this way it differs from bulimia or binge-eating disorder (BED). Those illnesses involve severe over-eating and a normal to high body weight.

Some of the signs of anorexia include:

  • Being very thin without knowing it
  • Having a distorted body image
  • Being obsessed with controlling food intake
  • Being very fearful of weight gain
  • Cutting food into tiny pieces
  • Weighing food
  • Weighing oneself throughout the day
  • Over exercising
  • Vomiting after eating
  • Overusing diet pills, laxatives, or enemas
  • Missing three or more menstrual cycles in a row
  • Having thoughts of killing oneself

You may worry that you are overreacting. Maybe your family member is just going through a phase. Maybe your friend is just taking dieting a little too far. This should not keep you from confronting the person in a loving manner. Even if she does not yet have the disorder, your involvement might prevent her from getting it.

Show your support

Make sure your friend or loved one knows you are there to support him. Take time to talk with him and more importantly, to listen. Do not judge him or say things to make him feel guilty. Do not tell him to just stop exercising so much or to start eating more. Instead, encourage him to seek professional help. Offer to help him make an appointment. If he resists, do not try to force him. Let him know that you will be there for him whenever he is ready.

Another way of helping is to learn all you can about the illness. This will help you better realize what she is going through. It will also allow you to better express your concerns. Search online for articles on the disorder from trusted sources. Beware of websites that promote thinness through purging or extreme exercise and dieting. You can get a lot of good information from the National Eating Disorders Association.

Diagnosis and treatment

A person thought to have the disorder should be checked out thoroughly by a health team. A physical exam and lab tests can make sure there are no other medical issues. A mental health check can see if the person has other things like anxiety or depression. The combined results from these tests will help direct the course of treatment.

One-on-one talk and behavior therapies are the most common treatments. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is used to change unwanted thoughts and actions. Group and family therapy help provide much needed support. Guidance on healthy food and proper diet is also very important. Drug therapy is not used to treat the illness itself. However, it may be helpful in treating anxiety and depression issues that may also be present.

Anorexia is a serious illness. The sooner a person is diagnosed and treated, the better. Some people with the disorder will have to be hospitalized. IVs and feeding tubes may be needed to bring their weight up to a safe level. Once a healthy weight is reached, recovery can begin. Treatment will take time and relapses may occur. A committed health team and strong support from family and friends will go a long way toward healing.

Resources

National Eating Disorders Association
What Should I Say?
How to Help A Friend with Eating and Body Image Issues
NEDA Toolkits

Office on Women’s Health
Anorexia Fact Sheet

By Kevin Rizzo
Source: National Alliance on Mental Illness, www2.nami.org/Template.cfm?Section=By_Illness&Template=/ContentManagement/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=149438 and www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions/Eating-Disorders; Office on Women’s Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, http://womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/anorexia-nervosa.html; National Eating Disorders Association, www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/anorexia-nervosa, www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/what-should-i-say, www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/how-help-friend-eating-and-body-image-issues; National Institute of Mental Health, www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/eating-disorders/index.shtml
Reviewed by Maria F Rodowski-Stanco, MD, Associate Medical Director, Beacon Health Options

The information provided on the Achieve Solutions site, including, but not limited to, articles, quizzes and other general information, is for informational purposes only and should not be treated as medical or health care advice. Nothing contained on the Achieve Solutions site is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment or as a substitute for consultation with a qualified health care professional. Please direct questions regarding the operation of the Achieve Solutions site to Web Feedback. If you have concerns about your health, please contact your health care provider.  ©2017 Beacon Health Options, Inc.

 

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