Social commentary

How to help someone with an eating disorder – by Emily Norris

BeyondBlueMentalHealthImageToday is ‘Time to Talk’ day, where people are asked to take 5 minutes out of your day to talk about…(bring on the scary taboo topic)..MENTAL ILLNESS.

I haven’t told many people this, but I was officially diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa seven years ago. I was confused, ashamed and therefore kept it quiet for a very long time.

Over the years it took over my life, became my identity and isolated me from the people I loved.

I am currently nearly 9 months into my third hospital admission on an eating disorder unit within the last 2 years. As a by-product of anorexia I have also experienced severe anxiety and depression.

Mental health condition

Anorexia is a scary illness, many wrongly assume its a physical illness, that once you put on some weight, eat a few meals hooray you’re cured.

No. It’s a mental health condition…it is irrelevant how much a person weighs. In fact, in my experience, the toughest times have been when I’m in a healthier place physically, yet my mind is very much anorexic.

What very few people realise is an eating disorder in itself is not the problem…it is the symptom to a problem – the maladaptive coping mechanism someone turns to in order to cope with an other issue that’s just too much to face. And for everyone that can be different.

It is not a diet.

It is not to be glamourised.

It is not attention seeking.

It is not a choice.

And it can happen to anyone, of any gender, race, age and weight.


I was ashamed for so long, and perhaps if I hadn’t been I could have gotten help sooner.

Mental health of any kind is nothing to be ashamed of. 1 in 4 people are affected by mental illness, and it is vital for people to talk in order to get help.

Please help stop the stigma attached to mental illness. If you are struggling, or know someone who is or might be, talk.


And if someone talks, listen.  Don’t judge. Don’t try and fix them.

Listen, and help guide them to someone who can help.

I have been so lucky, I’ve had people supporting me every step of the way, willing to listen, put up with me, love me when I was very much unlovable, never given up on me and let me know they’re always there for me.

I literally owe my life to those people who listened.

Emily is 24, lives in Exeter and is into playing the piano, the ukulele and out of tune singing.

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