How to Help a Friend

Knowing when and how to help a friend can be challenging. We can help.

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If you are concerned about a friend’s use – or your own use – of alcohol or other drugs, please call (603) 862-3823 or make an appointment online to speak with a wellness educator/counselor.

Signs of a Substance Use Disorder

A person does not have to exhibit all of these signs to have a problem. They may:

  • Use more (with increased tolerance) or longer than intended
  • Want to cut down or stop, but can't
  • Spend a lot of time using or recovering from use
  • Have cravings
  • Find that using is negatively impacting and interfering with school and other responsibilities
  • Be unable to keep up with responsibilities (i.e., class, work, etc.)
  • Experience physical consequences (i.e., blackouts, accidents, injuries, vomiting, passing out, going to the hospital, etc.)
  • Get into trouble and/or arrested
  • Exhibit personality changes when using
  • Give up or cut back on activities that were important or interesting in order to use
  • Routinely get into risky situations while under the influence (i.e., driving, swimming, using machinery, walking in a dangerous area, or having unsafe sex)
  • Have trouble sleeping, shakiness, irritability, anxiety, depression, restlessness, nausea, or sweating when the high wears off
  • Continue to use even when it makes them depressed, anxious or adds to other health concerns
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If you are concerned about a friend, roommate, or family member who is struggling with an eating concern, you can speak to a professional a Health & Wellness about how to approach the situation by calling Health & Wellness (603) 862-3823.

What are Eating Concerns?

Eating concerns include disordered or chaotic eating patterns, eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating disorder. An eating concern may also involve body dissatisfaction and/or obsession with exercise. 

  • Distorted or dysfunctional eating that does not fit the diagnostic criteria for an eating disorder.
  • Examples include irregular or chaotic eating, fasting, bingeing, dieting, emotional eating, feeling remorse or guilt after eating, preoccupation with food and weight, over exercising.
  • Eating is often dictated by externally connected cues such as counting calories instead of normal controls of hunger and satiety.

Communicating Concern

“I” statements

If you choose to communicate your concern to your friend, be sure to use “I” statements and specific examples. Do not blame, lecture, preach or get pulled into an emotional/argumentative conversation.

Example: “I noticed that you tend to get hurt a lot when you are out drinking. I am worried about you.” Or, “I am worried that if you miss any more classes, you will fail your course.”

Many voices

If other friends are also concerned, encourage them to talk with your friend. Do not have too many people at one meeting. You don’t want your friend to feel like they are being ganged up on. Besides, the more often a person hears a message, the more likely they are to internalize the information.

Listen Without Judgment

Be prepared to listen without judgment. They may have given this a lot of thought already. Or, they may be angry or dismissive. It is hard to predict how someone will respond to this information.

Set boundaries

Let your friend know that you value your friendship but that you are uncomfortable and worried about their behavior. You may not want to be with your friend when they are using substances, for instance. This avoids sending mixed messages.

You can sometimes be the most help to your friends by listening, letting them know you are concerned, and providing support to help them help themselves.

Remember, you can't do everything. Don't take responsibility for fixing or solving your friend's problem. You can't make another person seek help or make life changes. The most you can do – and this is a great deal – is to share your observations, experiences, feelings and concern. This can make a difference.