Eating disorders are relatively easy to keep a secret, so it might surprise you when a friend tells you that they have an eating disorder. You’ll likely wonder how you should respond and whether or not you can ask certain questions. This is what to do when a friend tells you they have an eating disorder.

Let Them Speak

Though you might have a lot of questions, this is your friend’s time to express themselves. Give them a platform to talk about anything they feel the need to. Chime in when it’s appropriate to do so, but remember to let them steer the conversation. Don’t goad them to talk any more or less than they’re comfortable with. There’s no set measure of time for how long one has to discuss their eating disorder. Let your friend know they’re free to talk about this with you whenever they’d like.

Avoid Assumptions

If you’ve never experienced an eating disorder yourself, you might have a good deal of misinformation about what they involve. Assumptions based on media shouldn’t come up, even if you mean them as innocent questions. If you have experienced an eating disorder, you shouldn’t try to compare your experience to your friend’s. You might also talk about your own in-patient eating disorder treatment experience for their benefit. They might ask you some questions about what you’ve gone through, but you need to make sure your responses don’t come across as you stealing their thunder.

Treat Them Normally

It might seem like knowing about your friend’s eating disorder is going to completely change your relationship forever. However, friendships can be made richer by learning about each other. You may have to remind yourself that your friend is more than their eating disorder. This is an important thing about them, but it in no way defines them, nor should it change how you feel about them as a friend.

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Thank Them

Sharing this kind of information is bound to be very difficult for your friend. Even if you’re close to each other, they might be worried about whether or not this is a potential deal-breaker. Show your appreciation by thanking them for sharing this information with you. This can be your way of showing vulnerability to them just like how they’ve shown to you.

Your friend telling you about their eating disorder means that they trust you with this information and that they don’t fear you’ll judge them for it. Respect their confidence and let them know that you’re there for them. While addressing their eating disorder is ultimately their decision, your support can mean the world to them.