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Eating Disorders: How To Get Help

Eating disorders are complicated illnesses, but the good news is that they can be treated. Most people with eating disorders are afraid to reach out and admit that they have a problem. They might be ashamed or convinced that they can handle the situation by themselves. But without professional help, eating disorders will get worse.

If you feel that your eating habits are out of control, you must get help. Talk to any trusted adult: a school counselor, doctor, family member, religious leader...anyone. If you don't feel comfortable reaching out to an adult, try talking to a friend first.

If you're worried about a friend or family member who may have an eating disorder, here are some tips on how to approach them:

  • Don't judge. It can be a hassle to always have to reassure your BFF that she doesn't look fat. You might be tempted to shake him or her and say "What's wrong with you? You look fine! Why don't you just eat?" But remember, people with eating disorders have distorted body images. That means, no matter how thin your friend looks to you and everyone else, he or she doesn't see that in the mirror. Because eating disorders aren't really about food, forcing someone to eat won't fix the problem either.

  • Get serious. Instead of saying, "You don't look fat!" for the hundredth time, tell your friend that you think this is about more than his or her size. Explain that you're concerned and that you think he or she should talk to an adult. There are special counselors and nutritionists who can help. You can't fix this problem alone, and neither can your friend. Chances are, she or he won't be too happy about the idea of talking to an adult, but you can offer to go along. Maybe there's a favorite teacher or coach that you could talk to together. If he or she won't go, it's time to take matters into your own hands and talk to an adult you trust about what's going on. Your friend might be mad, but in the long run, you might be saving the life of someone you love.

  • Do your homework. When a friend is suffering from an eating disorder, the best thing you can do is educate yourself. The more information you have, the better prepared you will be to support your friend. For example, if your friend's a guy, he might feel embarrassed to have a "girl's problem." A good friend will take the time to know the facts from the myths. You'll learn that boys do suffer from these illnesses and you'll get a lot of other helpful tips, too. For more information, check out these Web sites:

    • National Eating Disorders Association
      This site has some great fact sheets on eating disorders for girls, boys, friends, and parents.

    • Something Fishy Website on Eating Disorders
      Read the latest news, stats, and facts about eating disorders, plus poetry and stories by survivors.

    • Eating Disorder Referral and Information Center
      Provides information and treatment help for all types of eating disorders.

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