How To Approach Someone With An Eating Disorder | EDV
Home ~ For family and friends ~ Approaching someone

Approaching someone

Home ~ For family and friends ~ Approaching someone

This page offers tips and guidance on how to approach someone you suspect of having an eating disorder.

Approaching someone you suspect has an eating disorder

If you have concerns that somebody close to you may be developing or experiencing difficulties with food, it is important to try to broach the issue with the person.

Eating disorders are best treated as early as possible in order to promote a full recovery. If someone you care about is displaying warning signs or symptoms of an eating disorder, do not ignore it — it will not go away.

It is best to address and tackle disordered eating behaviour as early as possible. It may seem challenging, but keep in mind you are doing the best thing for your loved one, and for yourself. There are no right or wrong ways to start this discussion as every situation and person is different, however there are some points to consider.

Be prepared

Before initiating a conversation, make sure you feel prepared. Understanding the signs and symptoms of eating disorders can help. Be aware that having this conversation may not go the way you hope, or it may open up other issues. Make sure you feel ready for these outcomes.

Choose a time when you are both feeling calm and are unlikely to have any distractions. Pick a safe and comfortable place, and try to avoid raising it before, during or immediately after a meal.


Be calm, honest and open about your concerns for the person.

Before speaking to the person, it is important to think about what you would like to say to maximise the chances of a positive conversation. Use your knowledge of the person to decide the best way and time to approach them. You may find it helpful to role play your conversation with another person, or role play your approach in your own mind.

Assure the person you are talking about it because of your genuine care and concern, rather than coming across as making accusations or judgements.

Use ‘I’ statements rather than ‘You’ statements as the latter can lead to the person feeling attacked. For example, you could say, ‘I am concerned for you because I have noticed you’re not so happy at the moment’ rather than ‘you aren’t happy at the moment’.

Offer information

Your family member or friend may not be ready to take in what you are saying at the time, but they might be ready to look at a fact sheet, brochure or list of services in their own time. You can download a fact sheet or contact the EDV Hub for information specific to their situation and services in their area.

Avoid using labelling or judgmental language

Focus on the person’s behavioural changes rather than their weight, food consumption or physical appearance. For example, you might decide not to use the words ‘eating disorder’ but to talk more generally about moods, behaviour, isolation and your concerns about them.

How they might respond

Be prepared for their emotional reaction, which may be one of anger, denial or relief:

Anger – the person may feel angry at their privacy has been threatened, that they have not been able to deal with the eating disorder on their own or that they are embarrassed or ashamed.

Denial – the person may deny there is a problem because they feel guilty or ashamed. The person may also feel protective about their eating disorder, especially if it serves a purpose for them, such as a coping mechanism or a sense of control in their life. Alternatively the person may be confused and shocked because they have not yet identified themselves as having an eating disorder.

Relief – the person may feel relieved that someone has noticed and offered them support or help. If the person is truly endangering his or her life by their eating habits, family and friends may need to insist that professional help is sought.

Seek help

Encourage the person to seek professional help. The first port of call will usually be a GP, as they are best placed to provide a diagnosis. Reassure them that you are there to help and support them and they are not alone in their situation. Encourage them to seek support from the people in their life who love them, such as friends, family or parents. Encourage the person to think about the benefits of a life without an eating disorder.

Contact the EDV Hub

If you are concerned about someone you love but need advice on how to approach them, don’t hesitate to call, email or come in to meet our team at the EDV Hub.

Contact us

Visiting the doctor

After acknowledging the problem, it’s important for a person to receive help from a medical professional.

One of first steps in seeking professional help for your loved one is a visit to the GP. GPs are the key community contact for people with eating disorders and can provide diagnosis, health assessment and monitoring and referrals to further services in the public and private health system.

If you are a parent of a child under the age of 18, it’s important to make this appointment for your child as soon as possible.

If you are a loved one or friend of someone over the age of 18, you may want to make yourself available as a support person for a visit to the doctor.

Find out what you need to know about seeing a GP, including how to best prepare for your first appointment.

Talking to my doctor

Talking to EDV

It can feel overwhelming for a person to seek help for an eating disorder. A call to EDV can be a helpful first step.

If someone is hesitant to acknowledge a problem or to seek medical help, contacting EDV might be a useful step.

EDV’s Telehealth Counsellors offer a supportive and non-judgmental ear to talk to. All EDV Counsellors understand the challenges of eating disorders and seeking help, and work with individuals to help them take the next steps that best suit their needs. Telehealth Counselling sessions can be booked directly via our website and are free for Victorians to access.

For callers under 16 years of age: We are very happy to receive phone calls and enquiries from people under the age of 16. However, we do require that they have an adult (someone over the age of 18) join for phone calls. This can be a family member, friend, clinician, school teacher/mental health worker, youth worker or a support person of your choosing. We do this to ensure that all conversations are clear and transparent and that the young person has someone to support them with both information and plans.

For callers under the age of 18: If the EDV worker you are speaking to is seriously worried about a person’s safety or the safety of someone else they must, by law, try to keep everyone safe. This means they might have to share their concerns with someone else. Please talk to us about confidentiality to ensure you understand how this works.

Make an appointment with an EDV Telehealth Counsellor

Telehealth Counsellors at EDV are available Mon – Fri. Bookings are essential.

Book here
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