DANA DIGS ANSWERS: "HOW DO I HELP A FRIEND WHO HAS CONFIDED IN ME THAT SHE HAS AN EATING DISORDER?"

An excellent question from an amazing reader. (I'm using the pronoun "she" here, but this is obviously applicable to people of all genders.)
  1. This is what I said:
  2. Firstly, you can't force anyone to get better or to get help. They have to want it for themselves. So here's what I'd do:
  3. The next time you see her, just say, "Hey, when you and I last spoke, you mentioned struggling with an eating disorder. I was wondering if you're in treatment right now because you're my friend and I wanted to make sure you're okay."
  4. Because she may be. And if she is, great. End of conversation. Let her do her thing.
  5. But if she says no, ask her if she's ever thought about it. Does she have a plan to get better? If she feels like she doesn't even know where to start, let her know that a school/university counselor or her insurance can help her find a therapist and nutritionist.
  6. If she's clearly not interested (like she tells you not to worry, that she's fine, that she can get better on her own), you leave it be.
    This sucks, I know. Trust me. You want to help! But the truth is you can't.
  7. She may have even given up on herself and grown despondent. She may not even believe in the possibility of getting better.
    I have been there. Trust me. And no amount of people trying to convince me otherwise could change my mind.
  8. Even in this situation, as hard as it may be, you leave her be.
  9. Because that is HER decision to not pursue treatment. Eventually, one day, she will grow so tired of her disorder that she will. And, unfortunately, you have no control over when that day will be.
  10. But, in the meantime, you can say, "Please know that whenever you feel like doing that to yourself, I will be here for you. If you'd like, you can call me whenever you feel like doing those things and we'll figure out something else to do instead. Even if it's just talking."
  11. Making sure she knows you're a supportive friend is really important.
  12. And if she takes you up on it and takes advantage of that offer (like, turning you into her therapist) and her reliance on you stresses you out or overwhelms you in ANY way (because it is not your responsibility to be her doctor), you say:
  13. "I'm so glad you call me when you feel like doing self-harming things, but I think a doctor would be better and more equipped at helping you than I am. And I just want the best person possible helping you because I care about you."
  14. IMPORTANT: If your friend expresses any kind of suicidal ideation to you, please alert his/her parent/a professional/the authorities asap. That shit is serious.
  15. Thank you for this question, reader! ❤️