How to help someone

How to help someone with an eating disorder if you a friend, family member or partner

If you are a friend, family member or partner of a man with an eating disorder it can be difficult to approach them if you know they have a problem but they are not willing to acknowledge or accept it. However, as helpless as you might feel, there are many things you can do to support them.

People with eating disorders tend to isolate themselves and are secretive in their nature. This can make it difficult for you to help them and may reject any offers of help.

So what can you do? The first thing to do is just be there. If you can listen and be non-judgemental he will learn to trust you and the support you are giving. By being there – it will give them the encouragement and support they need.

Find out as much as you can about what they are going through. The eating disorder isn’t necessarily the problem, rather the underlying factors that are fuelling it. Are there pressures in his life that is making him stressed or anxious? It is likely there are a multitude of issues contributing to it. By identifying these problems it might make it a little easier for him to talk about his eating disorder rather than tackling it head on.

Once you’ve got an idea of what is happening, you can begin to understand mood swings, expressions of anger or times when he is feeling down or depressed.

You will need to get a sense of the very particular pressures that people with eating disorders experience and how they feel – especially around food and body image issues. Typically the pressures bring on feelings of low self-esteem, lack of self-worth and inadequacy. Its these sorts of feelings that fuel the destructive behaviours, the eating disorder is the coping mechanism to help deal with underlying trauma and distress. Breaking the cycle and letting go from their eating disorder can be one of the most difficult challenges. This is not something they can do on their own or with your support alone and only a professional can provide this kind of intensive support.

What you can do is help them to feel valued by involving them in social activities, whether it be with family or friends. If you are a partner of a man with eating disorder try and spend more time together so he feels less on his own and able to talk to you about how he is feeling. Even if he is not so keen it may be helping him just to be asked.

Try not to give advice or criticism as, but give it time and listen. You don’t have to know the answers and their will be times when you don’t know what to say. Remember being there is the key. This is especially the case when things are hard to cope with, particularly when it may feel like your support is being rejected.

'Men Get Eating Disorders Too' is a registered charity in England and Wales no. 1139351.

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