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Is An Eating Disorder Damaging Your Romantic Relationship?

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Life Coach: Eating Disorders & Decreased Intimacy
Don't force-feed: there are better ways to be supportive.
Emotional and disordered eating can lead to decreased intimacy... here's how to cope.

So, you love each other! The looks he gives you, the way she smiles when you walk by. It's like nothing could be better than having a romantic dinner, followed by a passionate night and waking up to breakfast — except she never wants to do that. You find yourself wondering why... could an eating disorder be the problem? 

Must you end the relationship with the old "It's not you, it's me" routine, or can you keep this love alive even if your partner has an eating disorder? You may tell yourself "There's no way that he has an eating disorder; he's just naturally thin or she looks so good in her clothes... and that layered look is the trend," but you both know, intrinsically, that's not the truth. Don't ignore the signs of a potential eating disorder, for your partner's health and the health of your relationship.

More from YourTango: Love Someone With An Eating Disorder? 5 Ways To Be Good To Them

Let's take a look at the statistics: though both genders can experience disordered eating, women take up the lion's share of those with an eating disorder. Women are much more likely than men to develop an eating disorder, as only an estimated 5 to 15 percent of people with anorexia or bulimia are male. Being alive in America today is a stressful endeavor. With high levels of unemployment and everyone on the go, anxiety and stress can lead to problematic coping mechanisms, such as bulimia, anorexia, emotional eating and binge eating. Here is some general information on eating disorders that may be important to consider:

  • Almost 50 percent of people with eating disorders meet the criteria for depression.
  • Only 1 in 10 men and women with eating disorders receive treatment. Only 35 percent of people that receive treatment for eating disorders get treatment at a specialized facility for eating disorders.
  • Up to 24 million people of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder (anorexia, bulimia and binge eating tendencies) in the U.S.
  • Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illnesses.

There are signs to watch for that may suggest your partner has an eating disorder. For anorexia, look for extreme weight loss, excessive working out, food restrictions, an avoidance of social interactions (usually as a way to avoid eating in front of others), an extreme fear of weight gain, decrease in physical intimacy, and mood changes. For bulimia, you may notice large amounts of food disappear in a short period of time, frequent bathroom breaks after meals, laxative use, vomiting, and weight fluctuations. 

Also note that people dealing with an eating disorder often become preoccupied — even obsessed — with food and can feel overwhelmed in situations where food is presented or where food is the focus. For example, a date night at a restaurant or a wedding where there might be cake; your partner could feel anxious they may be "forced" to eat some.

More from YourTango: Love, Marriage & Adultery: Can Your Relationship Survive?

In addition to food being an issue, working out can become a major obsession as well. Anorexics may often exercise for hours, pushing their bodies over the limit, especially for the limited caloric intake that may be consumed. You may also see a person that has bulimia do a ten mile run after a binge eating episode, or begin a risky diet to help prevent weight gain. Keep reading...

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Article contributed by
Advanced Member

Dr. Nefertiti Nowell

Counselor/Therapist

Empowerment Through Counseling

Dr. Nefertiti Nowell

Nowell and Associates Counseling Firm

Location: Naperville, IL
Credentials: LCPC, PhD
Other Articles/News by Dr. Nefertiti Nowell:

Love Someone With An Eating Disorder? 5 Ways To Be Good To Them

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Some say that love can conquer all. But a couple struggling with the effects of the pressures of an eating disorder may need a little outside help. Though eating disorders are more frequently reported in women than in men, they occur among both genders. The most commonly seen are anorexia (starvation) and bulimia (binge eating and purging food). There are many ... Read more

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