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How You Can Help Someone With an Eating Disorder

Popsugar logoPopsugar 10/10/2017 ashling lee

© POPSUGAR Photography / Sheila Gim

Take a look in the news at any given day and there will be some form of spotlight on eating disorders. Celebrities revealing their secret struggles, everyday people sharing their body-positive roads to recovery, new diagnoses and words of warning about cultivating healthy relationships with food and so on.

And when you consider the amount of body shaming that repeatedly occurs — something exacerbated by the prevalence of social media, it's clear the line between healthy and disordered eating is a fine one. According to the National Eating Disorders Collaboration, the prevalence of eating disorders in Australia is increasing. Currently, about one in 20 Australians suffer from the condition, and it can affect up to 15 percent of Australian women in their lifetime.

Eating disorders also have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, with suicide rates for anorexia being 32 percent higher than the general population, according to the Butterfly Foundation. Like a lot of mental health diseases, it's a condition that doesn't discriminate, but can be a tricky area to navigate. Below, the Butterfly Foundation's tips for helping and supporting a loved one.


Eating disorders are complex mental health conditions with serious physical and psychological implications. They include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, disordered eating and Other Specified Feeding and Eating Disorders (OSFED). Early intervention is crucial as the sooner someone seeks help, the quicker the road to recovery. Don't jump to conclusions. There are common misconceptions about eating disorders that can deter support. These include: - Eating disorders only affect females, when nearly a quarter of those suffering from eating disorders are in fact, male. - You can tell whether someone if suffering from an eating disorder by looking at them. Eating disorders are complex mental illnesses that can manifest themselves in different ways, one of which is physically. Many people who suffer from eating disorders also struggle with depression and/or anxiety. - Eating disorders are about vanity, but in reality, they are not a choice. A person with an eating disorder experiences severe disturbances in their behaviour around eating, exercising and related self-harm because of distortions in their thoughts and emotions. If you suspect someone might be suffering from an eating disorder, the sooner you discuss it with them, the better. Meet with them in a confidential, safe space to have an open and honest discussion, and remember not to take any responses personally. This fact sheet has everything you need to know about raising it. Sometimes, sufferers just need to talk, so the best thing you can do is listen. Don't feel as though you'll always need to fix their concerns or find solutions. Ensure you are always approachable, and let the person know you care about them and are there for support whenever they need. Avoid discussions that focus on weight, food or appearances when you're supporting them. Instead, focus your concern on their health, how they're feeling and behaving. Invite the person to regular social activities, don't actively exclude him/her just because of the condition. Be mindful of how you talk about food around them. Self-critical comments and consistently labelling foods can work as triggers for those suffering from an eating disorder. Remember to take care of yourself. Practicing good self-care while supporting someone in need should not be underestimated. If you, or anyone you know, is experiencing an eating disorder or body image concerns, there is always someone to talk to at the Butterfly Foundation National Helpline on 1800 33 4673 (ED HOPE). © POPSUGAR Photography / Sheila Gim Eating disorders are complex mental health conditions with serious physical and psychological implications. They include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, disordered eating and Other Specified Feeding and Eating Disorders (OSFED). Early intervention is crucial as the sooner someone seeks help, the quicker the road to recovery. Don't jump to conclusions. There are common misconceptions about eating disorders that can deter support. These include: - Eating disorders only affect females, when nearly a quarter of those suffering from eating disorders are in fact, male. - You can tell whether someone if suffering from an eating disorder by looking at them. Eating disorders are complex mental illnesses that can manifest themselves in different ways, one of which is physically. Many people who suffer from eating disorders also struggle with depression and/or anxiety. - Eating disorders are about vanity, but in reality, they are not a choice. A person with an eating disorder experiences severe disturbances in their behaviour around eating, exercising and related self-harm because of distortions in their thoughts and emotions. If you suspect someone might be suffering from an eating disorder, the sooner you discuss it with them, the better. Meet with them in a confidential, safe space to have an open and honest discussion, and remember not to take any responses personally. This fact sheet has everything you need to know about raising it. Sometimes, sufferers just need to talk, so the best thing you can do is listen. Don't feel as though you'll always need to fix their concerns or find solutions. Ensure you are always approachable, and let the person know you care about them and are there for support whenever they need. Avoid discussions that focus on weight, food or appearances when you're supporting them. Instead, focus your concern on their health, how they're feeling and behaving. Invite the person to regular social activities, don't actively exclude him/her just because of the condition. Be mindful of how you talk about food around them. Self-critical comments and consistently labelling foods can work as triggers for those suffering from an eating disorder. Remember to take care of yourself. Practicing good self-care while supporting someone in need should not be underestimated. If you, or anyone you know, is experiencing an eating disorder or body image concerns, there is always someone to talk to at the Butterfly Foundation National Helpline on 1800 33 4673 (ED HOPE).

Eating disorders are complex mental health conditions with serious physical and psychological implications. They include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, disordered eating and Other Specified Feeding and Eating Disorders (OSFED). Early intervention is crucial as the sooner someone seeks help, the quicker the road to recovery.

-Don't jump to conclusions. There are common misconceptions about eating disorders that can deter support. These include:

- Eating disorders only affect females, when nearly a quarter of those suffering from eating disorders are in fact, male.

- You can tell whether someone if suffering from an eating disorder by looking at them. Eating disorders are complex mental illnesses that can manifest themselves in different ways, one of which is physically. Many people who suffer from eating disorders also struggle with depression and/or anxiety.

- Eating disorders are about vanity, but in reality, they are not a choice. A person with an eating disorder experiences severe disturbances in their behaviour around eating, exercising and related self-harm because of distortions in their thoughts and emotions.

-If you suspect someone might be suffering from an eating disorder, the sooner you discuss it with them, the better. Meet with them in a confidential, safe space to have an open and honest discussion, and remember not to take any responses personally. This fact sheet has everything you need to know about raising it.

-Sometimes, sufferers just need to talk, so the best thing you can do is listen. Don't feel as though you'll always need to fix their concerns or find solutions.

-Ensure you are always approachable, and let the person know you care about them and are there for support whenever they need.

-Avoid discussions that focus on weight, food or appearances when you're supporting them. Instead, focus your concern on their health, how they're feeling and behaving.

-Invite the person to regular social activities, don't actively exclude him/her just because of the condition.

-Be mindful of how you talk about food around them. Self-critical comments and consistently labelling foods can work as triggers for those suffering from an eating disorder.

-Remember to take care of yourself. Practicing good self-care while supporting someone in need should not be underestimated.

If you, or anyone you know, is experiencing an eating disorder or body image concerns, there is always someone to talk to at the Butterfly Foundation National Helpline on 1800 33 4673 (ED HOPE).

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