How to Tell Someone You Have an Eating Disorder

Telling someone about an eating disorder can feel like a daunting step to take, but people often find it a relief to tell someone. We have put together some tips that can be useful when thinking about telling someone.

Prepare

  • Decide who you feel most comfortable talking to. For instance, a friend, family member or a professional, such as a doctor or counsellor. If you wanted to find a local counsellor in your area, you could use Beat's HelpFinder or look at the BACP It's Good to Talk website or, if you are a young person, visit The Mix or Youth Access.
  • Beat’s message boards are useful to find out about other people’s experiences of telling someone.
  • Having some information about eating disorders can help you to explain what you’re going through. You could use some of the information on this site, or download some of our resources, such as our booklet “Eating disorders: a guide for friends and family”, or our guide to help you at a GP appointment. Take a look in our Beat’s leaflet libraryNHS Choices is another good source of introductory information.
  • If you wanted to practice what you are going to say, you could contact Beat's Helpline Services
  • There is no right or wrong way to start a conversation but things you may want to include when the eating difficulties first started or what the eating difficulties mean for you in terms of feelings, thoughts and behaviours. Perhaps you would like to tell them what the impact of the eating difficulties are for you. 
  • You may also want to let someone know how they could best support you, for example in helping you to find treatment, spending quality time together, focusing on how you are feeling rather than your weight.

Having the conversation

Most people have times that feel more ‘right’ to talk than others. Use your judgement, or ask for a quiet block of time when you can speak to whoever you decide to talk to about something important.

Decide how you would like to tell someone – perhaps you would like to write things down, or you may feel more comfortable talking about things out loud.

There may be a whole range of reactions from people. They might be pleased that you have been able to share with them, but they may also appear to be upset or dismissive. Sometimes people need time to think things through, as they may fear saying the wrong thing or making things worse. Remember, however they respond, this is not your fault and you do deserve support.