Advice on how to help a friend with an eating disorder

A friend of mine seems to be suffering from a bulimia. I confronted her about it and she shut me out. She doesn’t want to talk to her mom or anyone about it. Her lifestyle is quite intense, insomnia, late nights, drinking. It hasn’t gotten “out of hand” but I don’t know how to help. She keeps saying I am making it my problem to fix and it isn’t and I get that but I can’t be idle and do nothing. We go out to eat with friends and when she goes to the restroom, it kills me cause I know what she’s doing. I’ve resolved that even if it ends our relationship, I have to tell her parents. She doesn’t want my help, but she can’t refuse her parents’, since she lives with them. I don’t know if it’s the right thing to do, or what the right thing to do is to be honest. I’ve done a ton or research and it’s all so complex. I just know she can’t manage it “doing her own thing”. She needs help.


Oh gosh, that’s tough. I’m not sure what the “right thing” to do is here (right for who?) but I can tell you that eating disorders are very

complicated and need very intense treatment. Like all self-destructive behaviours, unless the person is truly ready to heal and transform then treatment is almost guaranteed to fail.

So yes an intervention of sorts could be the most helpful thing you can offer but even that might not be enough and it might also affect your friendship if she is still in so much denial.

It’s very important to find out if her family has resources because treatment is lengthy and pricey. I would even maybe discuss all of this with them and arrange the treatment. Start by seeking out the best inpatient treatment center you can find in her area. Eating disorders require intensive, specialised, inpatient treatment. She needs to spend at least three weeks but preferably a few months at a clinic.

If you are going to surprise her with an intervention, I recommend that you first book a room for her at an inpatient facility so that when you do the intervention you can take her straight away, if she agrees. It’s also very important that her parents are involved in the treatment because they are part of the system that has produced these symptoms.

You may want to engage the parents first and try and suss out how willing they are to be involved. Do not underestimate people’s defense mechanisms. They might not be able to hear you. They may deny it or explain it away or downplay it. Eating disorders are often symptoms of a pathological system and therefore require intense family processes during therapy.

From what I can hear from your message, you are really concerned about what this disclosure is going to do to your friendship. I suggest you write your friend a letter so that when she is in a clear headspace she can properly try and digest your words and intentions because she might get clouded with anger at first. She may feel betrayed because you’re outing her secret. It’s a really hard call to make but ultimately if you’re doing it out of love and with her best interests at heart then it will come right in the end. Good luck!

Do you have a question you’d like answered? Contact me here and I will be happy to share my two cents with you. Let’s keep talking!

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