Do you suspect someone you care about is suffering from an eating disorder?

Signs and symptoms a carer may notice

  • a change in body weight
  • secretive behaviour around food
  • changes in mood or personality
  • loss of interest in hobbies and friends
  • a tendency to isolate oneself
  • changes in eating patterns
  • tension in relationships and general irritability
  • sensitivity about body weight and shape, including excessive weighing
  • smoking more or chewing gum to keep weight down
  • increased exercise
  • teeth marks on hands


As a carer for someone with an eating disorder, you have the potential to influence their recovery process.  It is understandable to want the best for them and to want to help them to make positive changes in their lives.



Eating disorders are exceedingly complex in their nature. It can be hard to understand around what is going on inside your loved one’s head. Bodywhys have produced a great resource for parents/carers to support you through this learning process. It can be found here.



It is important to show empathy with your loved one.  This means you should try to understand what they are going through, without judging them by your own personal opinions.

Try to remember:

  • a person with an eating disorder feels that they need to act in the way that they do, that it serves a logical value or purpose.  It is important not to dismiss these feelings.
  • the emotional pain a person experiences is an immense struggle
  • a person can feel compelled to behave in certain ways and feel like they have no other choice


Be prepared for ambivalence.  This means that a person may on one hand want to become well, and on the other hand either don’t want or are not ready to give up their eating disorder.

  • they may be in denial of the disorder, be secretive or deceptive
  • they may show lack of concern about serious physical symptoms
  • rationalising their disorder and become defensive about their behaviour
  • hostility/ defiance towards those who encourage change