Eating Disorders and Their Impact on Relationships

When anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa patients are married or live together with a partner, what impact an eating disorder has on the relationship? Read more.Eating disorders are consuming. They consume the individual in obsessive, negative thinking and behaviors and they consume the individual's relationships with family members, loved ones, and life. This is partially due to the effects of starvation in anorexia. When people are not adequately nourished, they think about food constantly, sometimes even dreaming about it. They also become depressed, isolated, and tired. They avoid relationships because they often feel others pressure them to eat, are physically depleted, and feel compelled to engage in eating disordered behaviors.

Loved ones find eating disorders extremely difficult to understand and accept. Seeing someone you love starve or damage their bodies is stressful, and, often, parents, spouses, and others begin to become intrusive in their efforts to get the person to eat or to stop purging. Soon, the individual may see these loved ones as enemies trying to control her rather than help.

Eating disorders may develop if a person has no other way to speak or represent her feelings. Frequently family dynamics, faulty communication patterns, losses or other stressors such as abuse contributed to negative feelings she could not deal with directly. It is never a simple matter that can be solved by telling the person just to eat. The symptoms have become the individual's way to avoid facing problems more directly or an attempts to feel in control when the rest of one's life feels out of control.

Get help for your relationship by getting help for your eating disorder

Although eating disorders vary in severity from mild to life-threatening, they usually don't go away by themselves. People with eating disorders are often resistant to getting help; after all, it could be seen as a sign of weakness. Loved ones can help break through that by being open to getting help themselves and by examining how they or other family relationships or issues may have contributed. In a family, both fathers and mothers need to be involved in treatment. Too often, we hold mom responsible for everything in families: this challenge needs to be shared.

next: Eating Disorders: Becoming 'the Best Anorexic Ever'
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APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2009, January 5). Eating Disorders and Their Impact on Relationships, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 22 from

Last Updated: January 14, 2014

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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