Supporting Those with Eating Disorders

Supporting Those with Eating Disorders

March 20,2015picI recently came across this article entitled, “7 Things You Shouldn’t Say to Someone Who’s Had an Eating Disorder.” I had no idea that 30 million Americans will suffer from an eating disorder during their lifetime. Therefore, chances are pretty high that I actually know someone who has had an eating disorder at some point, though I’m not aware of it.

On the 4th page, which includes the statement, “You don’t look that skinny,” it is suggested that we “throw out the antiquated idea that a ‘typical’ eating disorder patient is an emaciated young woman.” I will admit that this is the picture I have in my head when I think of eating disorders. However, I now understand the importance of knowing that people of various sizes and shapes can have an eating disorder. There is not one “usual” picture.

“Let’s grab dinner” on the 7th page is also a statement that caught my attention. It makes sense to avoid suggesting dinner as a space to catch up with a friend who has struggled with an eating disorder. The article then recommends that, if you do share a meal with that friend, avoid talking about their emotions too much. My first thought would be to ask how my friend is feeling if I see them struggling during a meal, so that they can talk through their emotions. However, I understand the significance of the article’s suggestion- ask the friend what they need from you. Being a source of support can be very important, and if they want to open up to you, then they will.

I think there should be more articles like this about specific eating disorders that manifest differently than the assumed eating disorder, in addition to articles about mental health in general. For example, symptoms of Binge Eating Disorder (BED) include eating large amounts of food frequently, eating when not hungry, and eating to the point of discomfort. Those with BED usually do not avoid weight gain with self-induced vomiting, for example. However, BED is commonly confused with Bulimia Nervosa, in which people do accompany their behavior with actions to prevent weight gain, like self-induced vomiting.

What are ways that people can expand their own understanding of mental health issues? How can public health organizations facilitate this understanding? Leave your comments below!