Monday, July 2, 2012

Relationships replace eating disorders

Treating eating disorders is difficult work, for both patient and provider. In reality, eating disorder treatment is a relatively new field, and the body of knowledge is growing exponentially each year. As a result, at times, we will seek advice from experts across the nation regarding how to approach a certain clinical situation. A few months ago, in response to one of these requests for suggestions, a number of conflicting ideas came in regarding how to broach a client's limited progress and difficulty adhering to treatment recommendations. And as all these ideas flew back and forth, there was one comment, quite simple really, that made it all make sense to me.

Now, I have no hope of getting the quote correctly, and unfortunately don't even remember who said it, but the bottom line was this....

As long as our clients believe in us as providers, whatever approach we take, within reason, is          likely to "work." 

And this confirms my belief about therapy, which is that, primarily, what we have to offer is a relationship. And then that relationship has power. And that power can join with the patient to create recovery from an eating disorder. I have seen patients with severe eating disorders symptoms choose to stop engaging in their eating disorder largely because a relationship finally matters enough to overpower the eating disorder. Sometimes, that relationship is with us as providers. Other times, it is with a child, a spouse, a family member.

I firmly believe relationships help replace eating disorders. Unfortunately, relationships are also what so often frighten those with eating disorders. Or probably all of us, really. So, what seems simple, is anything but.

But, overall, the idea that relationships can replace eating disorders this is good news, because we can all offer relationships, whether we are trained in doing so, or are a friend or family member.

And I thank all of my clients for offering me a relationship with them. There is no greater honor.


  1. Can a relationship also cause an ED? I ask, because I am married to a man w/ an ED and I have discovered that I suffer from some abandonment issues from when I was a child. I fel like I am very supportive, patient, and understanding of his ED, but he continues to detach from me while he is trying to manage his life while dealing with his ED.

  2. I guess the way I look at EDs is that they are very relationship-based. So, yes, I do think relationship issues lead to the development of some, perhaps even most, EDs. And, yes, what you describe is very common in EDs. It is very hard to maintain both a "relationship" with an ED and relationships with the actual people in one's life. As a result, real relationships suffer as the relationship with the ED is maintained. Jenni Schaeffer, in her books, talks about having an ED as being married to her ED, and then having to "divorce" it. Some will choose to get recover when they realize they want real relationships, others won't be aware of how the ED limits their ability to be in relationships until they start to get rid of the ED. I am sorry to hear about what the ED is causing in your life, and hope your husband will realize what he is losing out on with you as long as he has an ED.

  3. Thank you for your response. What you said makes a lot of sense. I am grateful you decided to start this blog. As someone who does not suffer from an ED, but loves someone who does, it is giving me a perspective that I have not found anywhere else. Thank you!