Looking for eating disorder support in your area? Visit HelpFinder

Supporting someone with an eating disorder during exam season

Are you taking exams at the moment? You’re not alone! We’ve got some new information up for anyone with an eating disorder who is preparing for or taking exams. You can read this here.

We’ve also shared guidance on how to support someone with an eating disorder while they’re taking their exams, and below, Beat Ambassador Aimee gives her tips on supporting someone with an eating disorder during the exam season.

How to support someone with an eating disorder during exam season

While all eating disorders and the people who suffer from them are completely different, what they often have in common is that they revolve around control. Which is why situations where we feel like we can’t guarantee the outcome of something so important in our lives, like exam season, can be so triggering. If someone you know is going through this tricky time right now, here’s some tips on how you can support them.

Keep an eye open

Eating disorder symptoms often start to appear or intensify when someone is feeling very stressed-out. But because they’re feeling so anxious, they might not even notice them developing.

These are different for everyone, but if you notice any unusual or worrying patterns of behaviour, it’s important to let them know that you’re here for them and ask if there’s anything you can do to help. Remember, if you’re concerned you can always contact Beat for advice.

Help them make a revision plan

Although there’s no way to be 100% in control of the outcome of an exam, feeling prepared is key. The best thing to do is to work out a schedule with them a few weeks before their exams with what they’re going to revise and when. Block it out like a normal school or uni day and include breaks for meals and snacks to give them routine and balance and to try to ensure they’re eating regularly, too.   

Stay connected 

Between all the revision and exams, it’s really easy to start to feel alone. Eating disorders thrive in isolation and if someone becomes very withdrawn (especially around occasions that revolve around food) it could be a sign that they are finding things tough. So, try to spend time with them regularly to avoid any secretive behaviour. Obviously it’s very important they prepare, but planned catch-ups when they have breaks can really help.

Remind them of the bigger picture

Of course exams are important. But anyone who has ever completed them will tell you that even when the results are not what you hoped for, it’s not the end of the world. Encourage them to do their very best, but also remind them that there are always options and that if they work hard they will achieve their goals no matter what. 

Contributed by Aimee