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Worried about a colleague

People with eating disorders often present little difficulty at work and excel at their job. Whatever difficulties they have, they will often make strenuous efforts to keep to themselves to avoid their illness being noticed at work. A work situation is unlikely to be the sole and direct cause of an eating disorder, although work-related stress can be a factor that exacerbates the problem. Anyone can be affected wherever they work and whatever their level in an organisation.

There are generally two ways that someone’s eating disorder may be brought to the attention of a co-worker:

  1. They will tell someone about the situation directly – this is unusual but is a positive sign.
  2. Colleagues notice outward signs and symptoms and become concerned. While some physical changes, such as weight gain, loss, or fluctuations, might become noticeable, the first thing that’s likely to change is the person’s behaviour. They might show increasing stress and anxiety, social withdrawal, low self-esteem, mood swings, irritability, or difficulty concentrating.

Supporting a colleague with an eating disorder

Staff who have an eating disorder may require lengthy treatment or absence to attend appointments. They may need to have their working arrangements, whether hours or responsibilities, altered to take their health needs into account. Staff with managerial or supervisory responsibilities will benefit from understanding how best to support someone with an eating disorder. Eating disorders are illnesses, so policies and procedures around staff illness will be relevant.

If any colleagues are taking care of someone with an eating disorder, this can take its toll on their physical and mental wellbeing too. Being able to accompany a child or partner to attend appointments or family therapy sessions is vital, and flexible working practices that can accommodate this are extremely beneficial.

Workplace training on eating disorders

If your business involves the retail side of food, clothes, sport, or exercise, you could consider the impact of eating disorders on your customers and clients. None of these areas cause eating disorders, but addressing the issues in a sensitive, informed and compassionate way can make all the difference. Staff who have some understanding of your customers’ needs will give you a competitive advantage.

If you are a concerned employer or your business involves areas that may have an impact, you might find it useful to attend one of our training sessions. Email us or call on 01925 912829. You can also call or email our Helpline for information and advice, and download useful information from our leaflet library.

Worried about a friend or family member

Worried about a pupil