Relationship Issues Can Contribute to Eating Disorders

People often want to understand the cause of their eating disorder. Even though knowledge alone will not create long-lasting recovery, it can help guide the treatment process and help the person understand why we’re suggesting different things.

NEDA, the National Eating Disorders Association, spells out the four factors that may contribute to eating disorders. Last week we discussed some of the psychological factors behind eating disorders and how we treat those factors, and today we will discuss the second group of factors – interpersonal factors.

At our center, we work on relationship issues from our clients’ very first therapy session and all the way through their therapy process – partly because your relationships will change while you are recovering from an eating disorder.

We have relationships with many types of people, and some of these interactions can be very complex. We have parents, siblings, children, extended family, in-laws, friends, work colleagues, bosses, teachers, students, neighbors and committee members, not to mention all the strangers we encounter as we move through our day.

Any and all of these relationships can contribute to eating disorders because people can be difficult to deal with. Eating disorder behaviors can seem easier than facing potential confrontations or disagreements with people. People speak through the food when they can’t speak with words.

Interwoven with the psychological factors we discussed last week, relationships can be linked to emotional issues such as low self-esteem (related to a history of being teased about size or weight) or depression and lack of control (as a result of physical, sexual or emotional abuse).   

We work a lot with our clients on how to express themselves and deal with people. As I often say, “the goal is to be able to speak your truth, with kindness and compassion.” At Castlewood they use psychodrama, which we also use in our intensive programs. Psychodrama provides a way to go back and heal the wounds of the past, grieve, put them behind us and move forward, in order to be able to deal with current relationships.

It’s really important to form healthy relationships with others while you’re forming a healthy relationship with self.

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