Binge eating disorder involves more than overeating. It is a psychological condition that is recognized by the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) as a formal psychiatric diagnosis.

Many people with binge eating disorder do not eat because they are hungry. They typically eat as a way to cope with negative feelings. If you have a friend that grapples with binge eating, you can support them in several ways.

How to Recognize Binge Eating

Spending time with a friend who has binge eating disorder can be difficult. People with binge eating disorder can experience several physical, emotional and behavioral changes that make it hard to maintain healthy relationships.

Recognizing binge eating disorder in a friend can be difficult because many people with the condition maintain a healthy weight. If your friend has binge eating disorder, they may deal with symptoms that may include:

  • Stealing or hoarding food
  • Dieting frequently
  • Expressing concerns about body weight
  • Appearing uncomfortable when eating around others
  • Exhibiting low self-esteem
  • Engaging in substance abuse

A friend experiencing binge eating disorder may routinely request to eat alone. When they do overeat, they might exhibit shame and guilt over their actions.

Ways to Help a Friend With Binge Eating Disorder

You don’t need to be a doctor to help someone with binge eating disorder. Receiving support from a friend can benefit the physical and mental health of someone with binge eating disorder. Encouragement can help to reduce their stress and cope with their symptoms.

You can help a friend with binge eating disorder by:

  • Being patient with their symptoms and needs
  • Avoiding disparaging remarks about their diet or appearance
  • Asking if you can assist them in any way
  • Setting aside private time to talk to them and rehearsing what you want to say to them
  • Talking to them about their binge eating in a caring yet firm manner
  • Listening to their frustrations

Binge eating disorder can cause your friend to act in uncharacteristic ways. Help them understand that their condition does not define them. You should also mention that they can control their symptoms with proper assistance.

How to Talk to Your Friend About Treatment

Not everyone who has binge eating disorder understands the importance of treatment. Talking to your friend about seeking treatment for binge eating disorder might inspire them to get the help they need.

Before bringing up the topic to your friend, do some research. Learning more about treatment and what it involves can better prepare you to hold a conversation with your friend with binge eating disorder. If they have questions, you might be able to answer some of them.

When talking to your friend about treatment, remember the following:

  1. Be nonconfrontational
  2. Express your concern for their health
  3. Talk about how treatment can help them better manage their symptoms of binge eating disorder
  4. Mention how it is against the law for therapists and counselors to reveal information about their patients
  5. Provide them with treatment resources

Many treatment centers across the United States treat co-occurring disorders, like binge eating disorder and substance abuse. If you or a loved one experience substance use and mental health disorders, contact The Recovery Village. An admissions representative can talk to you about what to expect from treatment and how it can improve a person’s health.

National Eating Disorder Association. “How to Help a Loved One.” (n.d.). Accessed January 11, 2019.

How to Help a Friend With Binge Eating Disorder
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