The Connection between Troubled Personal Relationships and Eating Disorder Development

The Connection between Troubled Personal Relationships and Eating Disorder DevelopmentEating disorders often develop from feelings of inadequacy or worthlessness. The effects of relationships on a person’s eating habits can be highly damaging and may contribute to the development of eating disorders. Relationships with family and friends play a large part in a person’s self-esteem, an essential component of healthy eating behaviors.

Troubled Family Relationships and Eating Habits

Children growing up in a household of troubled relationships are at a higher risk for the development of several disorders. The lack of a stable, supportive family can leave children with low self-worth and low self-esteem. Abuse—whether it is physical, sexual, or verbal—can be devastating to the mental health of family members, particularly children and adolescents. Those suffering from abuse often feel shame and guilt, as if they deserve to be treated in such a way. When individuals’ self-esteem is severely diminished, they may try to regain it by focusing on their bodies. Often, people who are verbally abused may feel that if they were more attractive, the abuse would stop.

Sexual abuse is particularly linked with the development of eating disorders. Those who experienced sexual abuse, particularly from a parental figure, are at a higher risk for the development of bulimia nervosa, an eating disorder characterized by repeated cycles of binging and purging. Sexual abuse can lead to a disturbed body image. Those who experience this may choose to focus on food and weight as a means of defense from further abuse. For some, disordered eating develops simply as a way to cope with repressed feelings of hatred, guilt, blame, or depression.

Troubled Social Relationships and Eating Habits

Eating disorders do not always develop strictly out of extreme, troubled family relationships. Sometimes, it is troubled relationships with friends and acquaintances that influence the development of an eating disorder. Bullying, in particular, is a problem that leads many people into an eating disorder. The effects of bullying on self-esteem are extreme and long lasting. Research done by a UK organization, titled Beat, found that 90 percent of those with eating disorders report a history of being bullied at some point in their lives. Of those surveyed, 78 percent reported that being bullied contributed to the development of their eating disorder.

Troubled social relationships like these may lead some to focus on weight loss as a means to prevent further bullying. This can lead to eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. For others, compulsive and excessive eating serves as a way to cope with the emotional damage. This can lead to binge eating disorder (BED), which can unfortunately lead to even more bullying for some.

Get Help for Eating Disorders

Those suffering from eating disorders may be hesitant to seek treatment. However, by utilizing available resources, many people overcome eating disorders and regain their lives. If you or a loved one suffers from an eating disorder, please call our toll-free helpline today. Our admissions coordinators are available 24 hours a day to answer any questions you have about treatments for eating disorders.