Concerned About a Friend?

You may have noticed a friend’s behavior that makes you concerned for their well-being.  The following are tips for starting a conversation with your friend about their concerning behavior.  It is important to recognize that helping a friend does not mean:

  • Diagnosing them
  • Giving them medical/mental health advice
  • Making decisions for them

However, there are steps you can take to help when you are concerned.

Reaching out to someone with disordered eating


  • Do speak to the person privately and allow time to talk
  • Do tell the person you are very concerned about her or him
  • Do calmly tell the person all the specific observations that have aroused your concern
  • Do allow the person time to respond. Listen carefully and non-judgmentally
  • Do keep the focus on problems (for example, withdrawing from others)
  • Do know about some of the resources at your school and in your community

If the information you receive suggests disordered eating concerns, the following information can be shared with your friend:

  • You are concerned that the person might have a problem with disordered eating (or body image or weight preoccupation/obsession)
  • You are concerned about his or her health and well-being
  • You are concerned that the matter needs to be evaluated by somebody who understands disordered eating

Tell someone. You can complete a student concern form which will be reviewed confidentially by WMU staff.


  • Don’t speak to someone else without first speaking privately to the person whom you suspect of having disordered eating (unless the situation is an emergency)
  • Don’t confront the person with a group of people, all of whom are firing concerns and accusations at the person
  • Don’t threaten or challenge the person
  • Don’t be judgmental. Don’t tell the person what they’re doing is “sick,” “crazy,” or “stupid".
  • Don’t give advice about weight loss, exercising or appearance
  • Don’t diagnose
  • Don’t get into an argument or a battle of wills:
    • Calmly repeat your evidence, your concern, and your strong belief that they need to have the problem evaluated
    • End the conversation if it is going nowhere or if either of you becomes too upset
  • Don’t promise to keep what you have observed a secret
  • Don’t try to keep track of what the person is eating or try to force the person to eat or not to eat
  • Don’t let the person monopolize your time and energy

What to do if a friend isn’t ready to find help

After talking to your friend, they may decide not to seek help or change their behavior. It is important to remember that unless your friend is in danger of hurting themselves or others, seeking help is their decision. Continuing to be supportive by listening and offering to help is the best thing you can do. If your friend decides to seek help in the future, they will know you are there for them.

Taking care of yourself

Worrying about someone else can take a toll on your own well-being. You may find yourself having difficulty concentrating at work or getting distracted from academic goals. Here are some things you can do to protect your own well-being:

  • Make sure you make time for yourself to do something you enjoy
  • Remember that it is ultimately your friend’s decision to change a behavior or seek help
  • Reach out for help if you’re feeling overwhelmed by utilizing the services offered through Counseling Services for individual counseling