One of the most difficult things a friend, partner, or family can be faced with is approaching a loved one about their eating disorder. Because this is one of the most dreaded conversations that most people simply don’t know how to start, it can be all too easy to simply keep ignoring the issue and push your concern for the person aside.
But watching someone you deeply care about harm themselves and put their health at risk is also painful. When you find yourself in the position of having to tell someone you’re worried about their eating disorder, it can be extremely helpful to prepare beforehand and plan what you’re going to say. The following guide will help anyone in this difficult position know what the right and wrong things to say are.
1.Pick the right time and place.
You may even want to tell the person ahead of time that you have something important to discuss with them. Make sure the location is private, calm, and that there will be no interruptions.
2. Remember to maintain an attitude of empathy and understanding.
This is one of the most important things to remember. Having empathy means trying to understand what it’s like to be in that person’s shoes. For some of that can be difficult to do without coming across as bossy or controlling. A big part of being empathetic is giving the other person space to talk, express their feelings, and feel that they are being understood.
Remember that you can’t change or control the person – you can only get them to understand how urgent it is that they get help. Maintaining that empathy is the first step to getting a person to change their perspective. When a person feels understood and loved, they are more likely to be open to change. Once this is established, you can begin to help in other ways, such as finding eating disorder specialists, making appointments, and getting them more information.
3. Express your concern from your own perspective.
You can do this by using “I” statements rather than “you” statements. This makes you sound less judgemental and more like you’re expressing a personal opinion. You can bring up behaviors that you’ve observed that have caused concern, but don’t go too far into detail with the examples. Try to discuss emotions that you’ve observed, rather than how thin the person looks. Focus on the issues underneath the disorder rather than the behaviors themselves.
4. Have information ready.
Once your loved one is willing to accept help, have any information they may need ready at hand. This could be the name of a therapist, doctor, or treatment facility, as well as details about their costs and appointment times. Offer to accompany your loved one to an appointment so they know that you’re ready to offer support.
5. Avoid arguments
The conversation may not go well, so be prepared to stay calm if the person becomes angry, defensive, denies they have a problem, or the conversation turns into a power struggle. Remember to stay calm, focus on your feelings of empathy, and keep hoping that the person will eventually get help.
6. Accept that you can’t do everything.
Keep a realistic attitude about how much you can help the person. You can’t change or make a problem go away simply be saying or doing the right thing, or by acting alone. Every person is different, and there is a chance your loved one may need to hear about getting help several times and from several people before they actually decide to get help. It may even be a good idea to seek the advice of a professional, especially if you believe the life of your loved one is in danger.