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Anorexia nervosa - Getting help for anorexia

NHS Choices Medical Reference

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People with anorexia nervosa do not often seek help, probably because they are afraid. Many hide their condition for a long time, sometimes years.

They usually find it difficult to admit they have a problem, or even talk about their symptoms. They will probably disagree they need to gain weight, and may not even realise anything is wrong.

If someone has anorexia, the most important step towards diagnosis and treatment is for them to:

  • recognise they need help
  • want to get better

However, to take this first step they may need lots of support and encouragement.

Helping yourself

If you have eating problems or think you may have anorexia, it is important to seek help as soon as possible. You could start by:

  • talking to someone you trust, such as one of your family or friends
  • asking them to go with you to see your GP

Helping someone else

If someone close to you is showing signs of anorexia, you may want to offer help and support.

You could try talking to the person about how they feel and encourage them to think about getting help. But try not to put pressure on them or be critical of them, as this could make things worse.

You may want to seek advice on how best you can help. For example, your GP or a support group can provide information on:

  • how to help the person recognise they have a problem
  • treatments available
  • how you can support them during their treatment

You could also offer to help by going with the person to see their GP. See treating anorexia nervosa for more information.

A leading charity for people with eating disorders is beat, which has a range of information on the help and support available for people with eating disorders, and their friends and families.

Medical Review: May 14, 2012
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