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To Sam

How Do I Support My Anorexic Friend

Hi Sam, I (female 11) was recently told by my close friend (female, 12) that she had been suffering with anorexia for a few months. I had previously noticed that she hardly ever ate, but since it was the start of secondary school for both of us, my mind was full of worry about other matters. As far as I know, she has told nobody else, but I recommended Childline as a help site as I myself have found it very helpful with my own mental-health struggles. However, I don't know how to support her and encourage her to tell someone in her circle of trusted adults without making things worse. I'm scared that she will continue to struggle with this and I won't be able to help. Please tell me what to do, I just need her to feel safe and happy. Thank you so much for reading this, and I really hope I can get some advice. * Thank you. *I know you are very busy and probably won't reply, but that is completely fine.

Ask Sam


Hi there

The fact you are reaching out about this shows that you're a good, supportive friend. Knowing how to best support someone can be difficult but a good place to start is letting them know they can talk to you without judgement and that you care about them.

Giving advice and encouraging them to speak to someone else can be tricky as you want to be careful not to pressure them. At the same time, letting them know that there are people that can support them and they are not alone can help.

You could ask your friend what does and doesn’t help to get a better sense of anything you could do or avoid doing. For example, this could be reminding them to eat and avoiding talking about weight in front of them. This would be individual to the person though, everyone is different and it’s about listening to your friend to understand what they need and want.

People with eating disorders often struggle with their self esteem so you could do and say things that can help build your friend's confidence.

Perhaps complimenting them on something they do well, what you like about them and what their friendship means to you. It is also important you and your friend also spend time together as you normally would, for them to have time where they aren’t treated differently, giving them time to talk without giving advice too and ensuring they are included in your usual plans.

Being patient with your friend to talk to someone when they are ready would be best, however their health is most important so if you were to be concerned about that, it would be the right thing to share that with a trusted adult. There's more advice and support about eating disorders in the My body section on the Childline website.

It’s important to remember you do not have all the answers and it isn’t your responsibility to support them even though you want to. Supporting someone can take its toll on you so it's just as important to ensure you have some support yourself too. That could be us or a trusted adult you know and our counsellors are here for you too. The Beat is a charity for eating disorders and there is lots of information and support for people that are suffering and those supporting them.

Hope this helps

Take care


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