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MilkyWay's avatar

Worried about a friends health condition. Any advice?

Asked by MilkyWay (13152 points ) May 22nd, 2011

My friend has just been diagnosed as anorexic. She can’t eat much at all without puking it all up. She hardly touches a thing to eat all day, not even fruit. She doesn’t even drink much water, and I’m very worried about her.
She isn’t willing to talk about it and often has to go home from school in the middle of the day due to feeling ill or faint. The teachers all try to persuade her to eat after finding out about her medical condition, but they’re not able to do much. Her parents dn’t want to force feed her as they say all she does is barf it up again.
I was hoping for some advice as to how to handle this situation as she is my class mate at school and I feel I can help her, only I don’ know how.
Thank you.

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21 Answers

gailcalled's avatar

She needs medical attention this minute. Her parents are deluded if they think that they can solve the problem without serious intervention. (And perhaps negligent.)

The diagnostician didn’t recommend immediate therapy and perhaps hospitalization to deal with the death-threatening starvation?

mcsnazzy's avatar

My sister is bulimic and it has been a hard past year dealing with it as a family. The first thing you should do is seek medical attention. If she won’t eat at all, then the doctor will refer her to a nutritional specialist. This person can assess her condition. If it is bad enough, she could be sent to a hospital that is directed to eating disorders or child disease. I also know someone who was anorexic. She was hospitalized and refused to eat. She was fed through an IV. We thought she would never be back to normal, but today, she is back as a normal prerson. She eats, and she eats many things because of the special attention her hospital gave her. Also, if you are worried about the health effects that this condition is having on your friend, you can send them to a doctor for vitamin and mineral tests. If her electrolyte levels are low, this could show heart problems developing. Sometimes, iron will be low. This will cause dizziness and sometimes fainting. Just talk to your friend and maybe her parents. Have them seek immediate medical help. This type of disease is psychological and cannot be treated with peppy talks or health warnings.

tedibear's avatar

The only thing you can do is to be a kind, supportive friend. Don’t try to get her to eat and don’t nag her about it. The best thing you can do for her is to find someone, probably at your school, to meet with her parents and tell them that they need to take action for your friend’s health.

cazzie's avatar

Your friend may not be meaning to but she is surely killing herself. Most anorexics are drawn to the practice of not eating out of a feeling of powerlessness over the rest of their lives. It’s the one thing they control and they learn to do it very well and even enjoy the feeling of hunger. It is more deadly than depression or being bi-polar.

Her parents and doctors have her diagnosed now, so if it comes to it, they will put her in hospital and put her on a drip and she will get counselling from a specialist counsellor.

People with eating disorders aren’t attention seekers. They are usually feeling helpless and desperate and caught in an addiction as surely as heroin addicts.

BarnacleBill's avatar

@gailcalled, the parents are probably are not delusional. Preferred/recommended treatment programs run $40,000 – $70,000 and aren’t covered by the majority of insurance plans. She does need to be in some sort of behavioral health program. Thank goodness health care reform lifted the limits on behavioral health coverage – most plans only allowed 10 -15 vists per plan year before that. Non-covered visits run about $100 per session. It is more affordable to treat the health damage from not eating than to mortgage your house to put your child into a treatment program for something many consider a willful choice. She should be getting behavioral counseling from someone trained to work with eating disorders.

Perhaps your help can come in the form of finding out all the information that a person would need to know or get help with eating disorders in your community. Turn it into a zine or blog. Focus especially on how to get help if you don’t have money to pay for a treatment program. What are the alternatives?

creative1's avatar

Any eating disorder have very real consequences and she needs help dealing with it whether she wants the help or not. Her parents should get her psyciatric help for this it can lead to death. Recently they had an episode of Make or Break it where someone dies from the disease, maybe recommend her watching it or you can get together and see it with her and that may open up the discussion with her on how you are worried something like that will happen to her.

gasman's avatar

“Anorexia” simply means loss of appetite, a very general symptom common to many GI disorders & not to be confused with anorexia nervosa, which is a specific psychiatric diagnosis & potentially life-threatening condition (see Karen Carpenter). So hopefully you mean the former, not the latter.

Either way, the most important thing is that she is getting medical attention and overall has a better prognosis today than in decades past.

Mariah's avatar

I am having trouble understanding, from what you’ve said, whether this is a physical or psychological condition. As @gasman said, “anorexia” just means loss of appetite. Is she throwing up on purpose (in which case I would think this would be bulimia…) or does she have some physical condition that has caused both loss of appetite and vomiting?

Good luck to your friend, and to you in supporting her. You’re a good friend for being so concerned.

pshizzle's avatar

She NEEDS to go to a hospital as soon as possible! Her life is on the line!

Luiveton's avatar

I have an idea… How about, DOCTOR? Useful eh?

gailcalled's avatar

@queenie: You’re in the UK, right? Is insurance or money an issue at all? You didn’t mention it.

The subtleties of the label no longer matter. She can’t keep food down. You treat the symptoms immediately (feeing tube or some kind of nourishment.) Then you deal with causation.

Lightlyseared's avatar

@Mariah & @gasman the word anorexia can be used to mean loss of appetite but there is also a disease, Anorexia nervosa, which is often shortened to just anorexia which is a refusal to maintain a healthy body weight and an obsessive fear of gaining weight. It is often coupled with a distorted self image. It is related to, but seperate from, bulimia nervosa .

@gailcalled If she is in the UK the NHS should provide both inpatient and outpatient care, therapy etc. so hopefully money/insurance isn’t an issue.

Mariah's avatar

@Lightlyseared Right, I know. The aim of my question was to figure out if @queenie‘s friend has anorexia nervosa or just loss of appetite, possibly caused by physical, not psychological, reasons. It was unclear to me from the OP.

Lightlyseared's avatar

@Mariah I would find it hard to believe anyone would confuse “diagnosed as anorexic” with a loss of appetite

Mariah's avatar

@Lightlyseared Okay, maybe I’m just slow then, but I was a bit confused by the language (“she can’t eat much, etc.). Sorry.

cazzie's avatar

@Mariah it helps if you look at the topics she’s added to her question details.

MilkyWay's avatar

I’m so sorry the reply is so late guys.
She’s already been to a doctor, that’s how she got “diagnosed”. As for insurance and money, I don’t know about that. The thing is, she’s been doing this for quite a while and it’s only gotten this bad now. I know the NHS is probably doing what they have to do, I was just looking for ways that I can support her in.

creative1's avatar

@queenie You can be supportive at the same time you have to remember this is a life threatening illness and you need to support a decision to become well and healthy. Watch the link I sent you on hulu, there are other shows that address the issue, sometimes friends can help get through when a teen won’t listen to her parents.

MilkyWay's avatar

Thanks everyone :)

skfinkel's avatar

This is so not your problem. The girl is in trouble, and you can talk to a counselor or her or her parents, but this is not on you. All you can do is alert people to what is going on. I repeat, your friend, but not your responsibility.

likipie's avatar

If she doesn’t want help, there’s nothing you can do short of forcing her into a hospital. Just let her know you care about her but don’t be pushy. Coming from personal experiences, trying to force her to talk about it or to changer her habits will only make her angry. Most people that have eating disorders have no intention of changing their ways and get angry when you try to make them see your side of it. Just make sure she knows you’re there for her anytime if she wants to talk but don’t be too persistent. Like I said before, if she doesn’t want your help, there’s nothing you can do but listen when/if she’s ready to talk.

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