Helping someone with an eating disorder

Dr Christian Buckland

Dr Christian Buckland

UKCP psychotherapist Christian is an accredited psychotherapist and professional advisor for Eating Disorder charity Anorexia & Bulimia Care.

An eating disorder is where there is a significant disturbance in the way someone relates to food, their weight or their body image. There are a number of different types of eating disorders and they all bring their own level of emotional distress as well as physical complications. Anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of all psychiatric disorders, which is why it is essential those suffering from an eating disorder receive the most appropriate, expert treatment possible. Watching someone you care about struggle with an eating disorder can be emotionally difficult. If you are worried someone is struggling you should encourage them to access help.

Four tips to help the conversation:

1. Don’t put off talking to them about your concerns

Research shows that early intervention is key to a safer recovery. Eating disorders are not a phase that people grow out of, but a sign of emotional distress, so it is important that you open up a discussion.


2. Encourage them to discuss their feelings in general, not just about food

Talk to them about your concerns in a calm safe space. Encourage them to talk about their feelings in general. Don’t focus solely on their relationship with food. Telling them to eat better or healthier is probably going to close down the conversation so listening is the most helpful thing you can do.


3. Don’t take rejection personally

Don’t feel angry or rejected if they don’t want to talk. No matter how well you know them, they may not feel comfortable or ready to open up. Keep in mind, an eating disorder is usually a sign of deep underlying emotional distress. Often those struggling with an eating disorder are not ready to change and will disagree with your concerns, and that’s OK. Just be patient with them.


4. Seek help from a trained professional

Suggest they meet with a trained professional. This is often easier than talking to friends or family. If they are open to the idea, help them to find an accredited psychotherapist. The UK Council of Psychotherapy (UKCP) can help find an expert therapist with the right experience.

There are often physical complications associated with an eating disorder, often requiring medical interventions. Therefore, it is important to find a professional who has the experience of working with eating disorders. A psychotherapist can suggest the right medical help. You can also encourage them to attend an appointment with their GP.  Beat Eating Disorders has literature designed to help you talk to your GP about eating disorders.

Listening and being there for someone who is struggling with an eating disorder is the most helpful thing you can do for them. It can take a long time for a sufferer to get better, and having someone who cares on their side, who will listen and not judge them, will make their road to recovery much easier.



If you enjoyed this blog, then you can also listen to our podcast. We spoke to Dr Christian Buckland to find out how to become more body positive.

The United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapists can help you find an expert therapist near you



You can also find support by contacting:

In an emergency, call: 999

NHS (England), call: 111

NHS Direct (Wales), call: 0845 46 47

The Samaritans 24-hour helpline, call: 116 123

Anorexia and Bulimia Care Eating disorder helpline: 03000 11 12 13

Beat Eating disorder: 0808 801 0711

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