Those involved

How do you recognise an eating disorder?

Having an eating disorder is always a problem – and not just for the sufferers themselves. The people around them may also suffer. They see someone they truly care for being unhappy and wasting away – or growing very fat. They often feel powerless to help. Parents see their daughter first refuse food and then stop coming to meals altogether. A girl may lose her best friend because she no longer wants to go to a party or a film; a boy may be mocked during sports because he is too overweight to keep up.

Denying the problem

It is often very difficult to know why a person develops an eating disorder. This is one of the principal problems: the sufferers find it difficult to talk about. Worse still, they will usually deny that there is a problem – not just to those around them, but most of all to themselves. It is with great difficulty and reluctance that they will allow anyone to help them. Even in extreme cases they do not understand that that their situation could be very serious and even life-threatening. They speak lightly of it, or avoid being honest about their eating behaviour. Meanwhile they can go to extraordinary lengths to refuse food, or to eat much too much…

Tips for family and friends

Are you wondering whether someone you know has an eating disorder? Make use of the following tips. They do not offer a solution, but they can help.

If you suspect that someone has an eating disorder:

  • First of all, try to get a clear picture of their eating habits.
  • Talk to them about what you’ve noticed, tell them you’re worried about it, and offer help.
  • Don’t try to control their eating behaviour; this will only make things worse!
  • Do things together that have nothing to do with food; this keeps you in touch with them.
  • Realise that there is little you can do about their eating disorder. Encourage them to seek professional help.
  • If it is all too much for you, get help. If someone you care for has an eating problem, the best way to help them is to get as well informed as possible.