According to a new study, a staggering 1.25 million people in the UK alone have an eating disorder.
On average, someone experiencing eating disorder symptoms waits 149 weeks before seeking help. That’s almost three years, 37 months or 1,043 days.
However, experts say that the sooner someone speaks out and gets the treatment they need the quicker they can recover.
Speaking to The Independent, Harley Street nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert said that eating disorders are devastating illnesses that can result in severe physical and psychological distress for the sufferer, having the highest mortality rate over any other psychiatric disorder.
If you suspect a loved one is suffering with an eating disorder, here are five tips on how to go about supporting them through this difficult time.
Know what you're dealing with: According to Lambert, it is important to familiarize oneself with the symptoms of an eating disorder so that one feels informed when discussing it with them.
“Choose a time to talk to them when neither of you feels angry or upset,” Lambert advises. “Avoid any time just before or after meals and you may find you get a better response from them.”
Make them feel safe: It’s important not to make the person feel ambushed so it’s best to talk to them alone, even if there are a group of you who are concerned. “Decide who they are most likely to open up to,” Lambert recommends. “Make sure you choose a place where you both feel safe and won’t be disturbed.
Don't talk about their weight: Try not to centre the conversation around food and/or weight. The root of an eating disorder is how a person feels, rather than how they’re treating food. Lambert points out that “if you start to question their food intake, they may start to feel ‘attacked’ and are less likely to open up to you.”
Be kind to the person: Make a conscious effort not to use accusatory language that may make the person feel backed into a corner. And although they may become angry and defensive, it’s important to try to avoid getting angry in response, and don’t be disheartened or put off. “
Be supportive: Give time, listen to them and try not to give advice or criticize. You don't have to have all the answers, you just need to make sure they know you're there for them. Sometimes you may feel like the person is rejecting your friendship, help and support but you just need to be there.