How to Help a Friend or Relative with an Eating Disorder

Combating an eating disorder is huge and generally involves a collaborative team of specialists, including a psychiatrist (or psychologist) to work through the psychological dynamics, a physician to monitor physical status, and a nutritionist (or dietitian) to reintroduce food as an ally—not an enemy. Here are some things you can do if you suspect a friend or family member has an eating disorder:

♦ Call your local hospital (or some of the treatment centers listed later in this chapter) and gather information on the various programs in your area. Ask about individual therapists, group therapy sessions, and nutritionists that specialize in food issues.

In a very caring and gentle way, discuss your concerns with your friend or relative, and provide some of the professional resources and phone numbers that you've found. Be very supportive and patient; even offer to go along for any initial consults.

♦ If the person is a minor and refuses to get help, you might need to speak with a family member.

Where to Go for Help

The following organizations can provide information, literature, and qualified referrals for the treatment of eating disorders:

National Eating Disorders Association

603 Stewart St., Suite 803 Seattle, WA 98101 Tel: 206-382-3587

Help line and treatment referral line: 1-800-931-2237 www.nationaleatingdisorders .org

National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders

Highland Park, IL 60035 Tel: 847-831-3438 Fax: 847-433-4632 E-mail: [email protected]

Some of the comprehensive treatment centers available include:

Eating Disorders Clinic

The New York State Psychiatric Institute Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center 1051 Riverside Drive New York, NY 10032 212-543-5316

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  • Treatment is free for individuals who meet criteria for this research program. Eating Disorder Program

Westchester Division—The New York Presbyterian Hospital

Weill Cornell Medical Center

21 Bloomingdale Road

White Plains, NY 10605


The Renfrew Center

475 Spring Lane Philadelphia, PA 19128 1-800-736-3739 215-482-5353

The Least You Need to Know

  • Anorexia nervosa is a life-threatening eating disorder that involves self-induced starvation and refusal to maintain a normal healthy weight.
  • Bulimia nervosa is a serious eating disorder that involves repeated episodes of rapidly consuming large quantities of food and then ridding the body of the excess calories by self-induced vomiting, laxatives or diuretic abuse, and/or prolonged exercising.
  • Compulsive overeating is repeatedly eating excessive amounts of food. Unlike bulimics, compulsive overeaters do not purge and therefore tend to be extremely overweight.
  • Treating an eating disorder generally requires a collaborative approach from a psychiatrist or psychologist, a physician, and a nutritionist.



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Breaking Bulimia

Breaking Bulimia

We have all been there: turning to the refrigerator if feeling lonely or bored or indulging in seconds or thirds if strained. But if you suffer from bulimia, the from time to time urge to overeat is more like an obsession.

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