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How to Help Someone with an Eating Disorder: Tips for Teens

February 28, 2024 | Reading Time: 2 minutes
Mom and daughter at a kitchen island food prepping

Helping a teenager with an eating disorder can be a challenging and emotional process. It is important to approach the situation with sensitivity and understanding. 

What is an eating disorder?

Eating disorders are caused by a range of biological, psychological and sociocultural factors. They are real, life-threatening illnesses with potentially fatal consequences. Eating disorders involve extreme emotions, attitudes and behaviors surrounding weight, food and size.

Common eating disorder warning signs:

  • Weight loss, dieting and control of food
  • Food rituals
  • Social withdrawal
  • Skipping meals
  • Body checking
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Noticeable weight fluctuations
  • Gastrointestinal complaints
  • Dizziness upon standing
  • Difficulty concentrating and/or sleeping
  • Issues with dental, skin, hair and nail health
Tips for helping a teen with an eating disorder
  1. Educate yourself
    Learn as much as you can about eating disorders. This will help you understand what your teen is going through and how you can support them. 
  2. Listen
    Make sure your teen knows that you are there to listen and support them. Encourage them to open up about their feelings and experiences. Be patient and non-judgmental. 
  3. Encourage professional help
    Eating disorders are serious illnesses that require professional treatment. Encourage your teen to seek help from a qualified health care professional. 
  4. Set a good example
    Be a good role model for your teen. Avoid making negative comments about your own body or weight. Encourage a healthy and balanced approach to food and exercise. 
  5. Be patient
    Recovery from an eating disorder can be a long and difficult process. Be patient and supportive, and celebrate small victories along the way.
  6. Get help today

Huntsville Hospital’s Becky Streetman Center for the Treatment of Eating Disorders through Nutritional Intervention provides nutrition counseling and evaluation with hands-on coaching to support children, teens and adults struggling with eating disorders.

Curious about treatment? Call us today at (256) 265-2180.