Proud2Bme | Dear Melody: My Friend’s Parents Won’t Take Her Eating Disorder Seriously. How Can I Help?

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Dear Melody: My Friend’s Parents Won’t Take Her Eating Disorder Seriously. How Can I Help?

“Monthly Matters with Melody” is a monthly advice column by Dr. Melody Moore, a clinical psychologist, yoga instructor and the founder of the Embody Love Movement Foundation. Her foundation is a non-profit whose mission is to empower girls and women to celebrate their inner beauty, commit to kindness and contribute to meaningful change in the world. Dr. Moore is a social entrepreneur who trains facilitators on how to teach programs to prevent negative body image and remind girls and women of their inherent worth. Her work has been featured in the books Yoga and Body Image and Yoga and Eating Disorders: Ancient Healing for Modern Illness, as well as in Yoga Journal, Yoga International and Origin Magazine.

My friend has an eating disorder and her parents do not take it seriously. She is still engaging in behaviors, but they don’t believe in eating disorders or therapy. She is a minor and financially supported by her parents. What should I do?

Thanks for writing in about your friend’s illness. It is so difficult to watch someone we care about struggle, isn’t it? Sometimes it leads to feeling overwhelmed, because often those who are in the throes of an eating disorder are in denial that they are in need of help. To make matters worse, in the case of your friend, it sounds like her parents are in denial as well.

So your job is a difficult one, dear, because one thing you’ll be facing is dropping the “should” or any feelings you are having that her getting the support she needs is your responsibility. It isn’t. It’s hers, but you can definitely make an effort to be a supportive friend to her. It’s important that you know your boundaries to take care of yourself first, and to be supportive of—but not responsible for—your friend’s choices.

Having set that limit for yourself, one avenue to try is to speak directly with your friend, if you have not already done so. Tell her the observable behaviors that you are witnessing, and how it makes you feel to see your friend harming herself.

Be armed with resources to pass along to your friend, including the NEDA website. NEDA’s website has a wealth of resources and tools available, and also a Helpline that shares treatment provider options.

If you and your friend are on a high school or college campus, ask your friend if you can accompany her to visit a therapist at the school counseling center. Both NEDA and the school counseling center will be able to offer you resources for treatment for your friend at no or a low fee.

If your friend is dismissive or combative during your conversation, understand that the part of her that is struggling with an eating disorder needs to defend itself in order to survive. Try and separate your friend from her illness, and let her know that you realize this is a difficult conversation and that you cannot imagine how painful her internal struggle may be. It might be helpful to tell her that you will be there for her if she changes her mind and decides that she does want support.

If you feel that your friend is in danger and these steps do not feel sufficient enough, speak directly to your school counselor about your concerns, including that you have notified her parents and that action has not been taken to help your friend get the support that she needs.

For recovery resources and treatment options, call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 800-931-2237 or click to chat here

Check out these additional resources below:

What Should I Say? Tips for Talking to a Friend Who May Be Struggling with an Eating Disorder

How to Help a Friend with Eating and Body Image Issues 

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