Helping a Loved One

Sydnie Ridley, M.S., MFT (MFT#36053)

Phone: 310-463-5106

Specializing in the treatment of eating disorders, adolescents and depression.

How to Help a Loved One with an Eating Disorder

Approach the person privately when there is enough time to seriously discuss the issue. 

Offer your observations in a caring but direct manner. Try to be as specific as you can regarding your observations and concerns.

Tell the person you are worried and would like them to seek help. 

Encourage the person to express their feelings openly and listen intently. Do not be judgmental instead ask questions about what was expressed.

Do not argue with the person as to whether or not they have an eating disorder - this will not help. Emphasize that you have heard their feelings and be compassionate. Re-focus on your concerns and fears and indicate that you do not feel things will change without intervention.

Gather information and resources for eating disorder treatment. Present the information to your friend or loved one. Further, express the desire to be of help. Ask them to at least see a professional once before making a "snap judgment" on treatment.

In some cases there is concern that the disorder has reached a life-threatening stage. If the disorder has reached this point enlist mental health professionals who can help you intervene. Stand united and confront the victim strongly and compassionately. Also, if a person is suicidal make sure you get professional help immediately.

Denial is frequently part of the illness, so expect that anger and refusals to seek help may present themselves. You cannot force someone into treatment you can only express your concerns and observations. This scenario may leave you feeling frustrated, angry or helpless. Remember that you can always broach the subject in the future.  Let your friend or family member know that if your concerns continue that you would like to discuss the issue with them again and DO IT!

Tell yourself that you have done what you can do. Realize that approaching the subject with your friend/loved one has opened the door to further discussions. These discussions may be more open, honest and may lead to treatment. One can only attempt to intervene but realize that the most effective form of treatment will involve the sufferer wanting and accepting the help provided.

Remember there is hope, there is it for yourself if necessary.


*Adapted from "How to help a loved one into counseling" by Dr. Kevin Grold, and the Eating Disorder Referral and Information Center,

* Adapted from EDAP, Eating Disorder Awareness and Prevention, 1998, "How to help a friend.", see


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