It’s important that people with eating disorders feel supported, especially when they might be finding things more stressful and worrying than usual. Exams at all levels of education can make people feel stressed and anxious. For people with eating disorders, or who could develop one, exam season can be especially difficult, and people may find their illness worsening. As a friend or family member, there are things you can do to support the person during this time. If someone you know has exams coming up and you are starting to notice what may be signs of an eating disorder, it’s best for them to get treatment as early as possible.
Supporting a family member
- Take off the pressure as much as you can. Positivity and reassurance that you’ll be proud of them no matter what their results are can help counter some of the pressure people with eating disorders might place on themselves around exam time.
- Talk with them about any concerns they have about the exam period. They may have their own ideas about how you can support them with revision, meals, and general stress management, or you might be able to work plans out together.
- Try to help your loved one identify things they can make a lower priority while they’re studying, whether that’s parts of their work or things like household chores.
- Make sure the healthcare professionals providing treatment are aware of the exams. They should be able to help you put plans in place to look after your loved one. If you’re becoming seriously worried about the effect the exams are having, get in touch with the healthcare team as soon as possible.
Supporting a friend
- Suggest studying together. You can not only encourage each other, but also make sure you’re taking time out and looking after your mental and physical wellbeing as well. You can also make a study schedule together – it may be easier to figure out where to start if you don’t have to do it alone.
- Share your notes. Eating disorders can affect people’s concentration, and illness or appointments may mean there are classes they can’t get to. Helping your friend catch up on what they’ve missed will be very useful.
- It’s not all your responsibility. Try to encourage and support your friend, but don’t forget to look after yourself. If you’re also taking exams, you’ll have your own stress and studying to deal with, so set aside plenty of “me” time – you’ll be able to support your friend better if you’re feeling mentally healthy too.
- Try to help them stay busy after exams have finished to take their mind off things. You don’t have to make big plans – just spending time with them can be helpful.