Eating Disorder Awareness | Worried About Someone?

Eating Disorder Awareness | Worried About Someone?

This article has been written and medically approved by Pharmacist Conor McSorley GPhC Reg No. 2223070

Are you worried about someone you know?

Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses and nobody is to blame or feel shame for having one. Often people who suffer from eating disorders aren’t even aware there is a problem and if they do, try to deny it being an issue. Although they may not have felt like it at the time, many people who are in recovery agree that breaking the silence and getting help was the right thing to do. The chance of a fully sustained recovery is improved, the quicker that someone can get the treatment they require. A major barrier to getting the help that they need is the lack of support around them in seeking help, even if you feel you are a person that is easily approachable and someone can talk to you, it can often make it easier for someone suffering to be approached about the condition.


Here are some a few of the options you can use before and during a conversation with someone who you suspect might have an eating disorder:

  1. Get informed before you start the conversation

Reading and thinking about what you want to say before starting the approach can not only make things easier for you but also the person you care about. Knowing how you want the conversation to go will help you provide the best possible care for that person rather than rushing in about something you don’t understand. BEAT have some great and informative information available online here (

  1. Start the conversion in a safe place

It is important that when discussing sensitive information, such as an eating disorder, the person feels safe and disturbances are rare. Choose somewhere the person is likely to open up and not feel like anyone else might come in at any time. Remove any distractions such as a phone or television and if you are one of several people who is concerned, then choose the person most suitable that they will open up with.  

  1. Start the conversion at the right time

Ensuring you start the conversation at a time which suits you both, when neither of you feel angry, upset or in a rush. Don’t choose a time where you will need to leave quickly to get somewhere to avoid the full discussion. Plan your time accordingly. Avoid any time around meals including just before, during or after.

  1. Have some prompts to help the discussion

Print some information out that can help steer the conversation or the person might find relatable. You can share this with them or leave them to read through it by themselves.

  1. Don’t be aggressive

An eating disorder is a mental illness and will be a sensitive subject for many people suffering. They may be angry or defensive, but it is critical to avoid getting angry in response and don’t be disheartened or put off if they put up a wall. Reassure them that you are here for them and are there when they are ready. Try to avoid backing them into a corner or use language that feels accusatory. (‘Would you like to talk about how you are feeling?’ rather than ‘You need help’)