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Do you suspect that your friend or loved one is suffering from an eating disorder? Perhaps you have observed a significant loss or gain of weight, eating rituals, you suspect they are restricting food intake, binge eating or purging their food.

If you are the parent of a child under 18, you are supported legally, regardless of his or her pleading to not take them for help, to make treatment decisions for your child. Learn about eating disorders online; consult your family doctor or therapist. Keep in mind that eating disorders are serious. Once active and chronic, medical and psychological consequences can be severe, even fatal. Do not delay to intervene and seek treatment. The earlier eating disorders are treated, the better.

If your friend or loved one is an adult, you may want to speak with them, offer emotional support, resources or information about treatment. For some people, this is an uncomfortable, even frightening task. You cannot force them to seek help, but here are some things to keep in mind that will equip you to help direct them toward doing so.

1. Think about what you want to convey. Be specific. Be direct.
2. Express your concern gently. Let them know you are worried and acknowledge that their eating disorder is serious and that they are important to you. Tell what you have observed and why you are concerned.
3. Remember how sensitive she may be. She carry a lot of shame, anger and resentment around her relationship with food.
4. Keep your approach positive and non-threatening. She may feel criticized.
5. Use “I” statements and avoid a confrontational tone.
6. Be a good listener. The more she feels she can trust you, the better chances are that she will seek help.
7. Remember that treatment is their choice.
8. There are many options for treatment; help your friend find resources online. There are many centers and therapists across the nation who specialize in eating disorder treatment.
9. Watch for severe symptoms: dizziness, stomach pain, uncontrolled bowl or urinary incontinence, blackouts, temperature sensitivity, chest pain, or significant weight loss.

In advanced cases, particularly with anorexia or bulimia, inpatient treatment for medical stabilization may be best. Treatment may continue with residential and/or day treatment, followed by individual therapy and nutritional counseling. For individuals who are not in immediate medical danger, residential treatment may be a starting point. If your friend or loved one is resistant to getting help, seek advice from an experienced specialist or contact a treatment center. Remember, over time and with treatment and recovery, you and your loved one will be able to speak openly, and share an honest, trusting relationship. There is hope with treatment, but recovery cannot happen alone.