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Eastern Kentucky University

Counseling Center

Counseling Center 5 How To Help Someone You Suspect Has An Eating Disorder

How To Help Someone You Suspect Has An Eating Disorder

  • Don’t try to solve the person’s problem on your own.
  • Learn everything you can about eating disorders.
  • Point out signs/symptoms you’ve noticed that have caused you to be concerned.
  • Encourage person to get professional help as soon as possible and inform them of resources available on and off campus (contact the Counseling Center for more information).
  • Tell the person you want to help and let the person know you care.
  • Pick the right time and place to discuss concerns with the person (free of distractions)
  • Be patient.
  • Avoid arguments or “battles of will” with the person.
  • Don’t “nag” about eating or not eating. Don’t be forceful.
  • Don’t agree to keep the person’s eating disorder a “secret” when the person’s health and/or thinking is impaired.
  • Avoid making comments about the person’s appearance.
  • Limit discussions about food or labeling foods as “good” or “bad.”
  • Do be available to listen to the person in times of distress.
  • Reach out to the person as a friend instead of focusing on the person’s eating behavior.

Signs and Symptoms


  • Significant weight loss of 15% or more of person’s expected weight for the person’s height
  • Loss of menstruation
  • Downy-like hair growth on face and arms
  • No energy
  • Permanent tooth damage from vomiting
  • Tissue damage to throat and esophagus
  • Seizures
  • Kidney damage
  • Electrolyte imbalance
  • Scrape marks on back of fingers as a result of repeated attempts to purge


  • Preoccupation with body weight
  • Distorted body image
  • Intense fear of becoming obese, which doesn’t diminish as weight loss progresses
  • Refusal to maintain normal body weight
  • Fear of not being able to stop eating voluntarily
  • Has very strict rules surrounding food


  • Episodic binge eating
  • Hides food
  • Plays with food on plate at mealtimes, but eats very little
  • Repeated attempts to lose weight by utilizing severely restrictive diets, self-induced vomiting, use of laxatives/enemas/ diuretics, appetite suppressants, or vigorous/excessive exercise
  • Frequent trips to the bathroom right after meals
  • Constant weighing of self

Counseling Center

521 Lancaster Avenue
CPO 52, Whitlock Building Room #571
Richmond, KY 40475-3152
Phone: 859-622-1303

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