Couples and Binge-Eating Disorder
Obesity in general and Binge Eating Disorder specifically are subjects that are often over time and the other is hurtful, shaming and perpetuates the problem. In the vulnerable early stages of recovery from an eating disorder, there is an drugs, alcohol, sex, relationships, food, or some other compulsive behavior. from working through the deeper issues underlying their addiction. Intimacy issues make personal relationships challenging to establish or maintain. For those with binge eating disorder (BED) this is particularly.
For example, we may refuse to go to events that will have food because we fear eating out of control, even if we really wish to attend. In fact, an addiction may be our way of preventing deep intimacy which we long for but also fear.
Not being honest usually speaks to a fear of being judged and found wanting, and possibly of being rejected. The truth is that sometimes we are secretive with eating or weight behaviors because we suspect our partner would disapprove and even be disgusted by knowing the extent of our dysfunction. Whatever we fear that generates secrecy, we are not engaging in true intimacy which is what makes romantic relationships so meaningful and worthwhile.
Living in shame builds walls around us and erodes self-esteem. Although our partners may not know about our secret eating or constantly weighing ourselves, they may sense our dissatisfaction with our bodies and how critical we are of them.
When Binge Eating Disorder Interferes With Intimacy
Shame goes hand in hand with dysfunctional behaviors. Generally, people who were raised in shame-based families unconsciously hold onto a shame-based identity when they become adults. In this case, we bring shame into our romantic relationship via disordered eating.
Ironically, being open about our struggles with food or the scale may actually deepen intimacy and help erase our shame.Eating and Body Dysmorphic Disorders: Crash Course Psychology #33
More likely, they may feel extremely helpless and not know what we want from them when we talk incessantly about food and weight: We may even give them confusing double messages: Research on Intimacy Issues in Women with Eating Disorders There is very little research when looking at the intimacy issues in women with eating disorders.
Severe malnutrition is not the only factor, though. Distorted body image, body dissatisfaction, and body shame also play a role in an unhealthy intimate relationship . Within the existing research, women with restrictive anorexia nervosa tend to not have a romantic partner or be in a sexual relationship. Women with bulimia nervosa tend to have early sexual relationships, report a higher number of sexual partners, and increased sex drive.
One study looked at the impact of eating disorders on sexual relationships and partner relationships in women with restricting and purge-type anorexia . Results showed that lower sexual intimacy and libido were found in those with a lower minimum lifetime body mass index BMI and earlier onset of the eating disorder than the placebo group.
This led the researchers to conclude that low BMI was associated with loss of libido, increased sexual anxiety, and avoidance of a sexual relationship.
- 6 Ways Eating Disorders Can Affect Your (Romantic) Relationships
- When Binge Eating Disorder Interferes With Intimacy
- How Eating Disorders Can Affect Relationships
Overall, over half of the women in the study did report having an intimate relationship at some point in their life, where they were able to have intimate and significant relationships . The study, as well as an analysis of previous research on intimacy levels within the relationship, showed at follow-up analysis that upon weight restoration and recovery, intimacy factors were improved and relationships were reported to be more satisfying .
Mental Health Support for Improved Intimacy When working with your spouse who has an eating disorder and fear of intimacy, it can help to remember that it is a vulnerable feeling to be intimate, regardless of the physical or emotional connection. It is difficult to be vulnerable with another person when the sufferer is unable to be vulnerable with himself or herself.
Intimacy Issues and Eating Disorders in Women
Therapy is a wonderful tool to help couples who are struggling with intimacy issues. A clinical therapist can work with you on being able to identify triggers, emotions, and underlying issues regarding intimacy. Development of health communication, trust, openness, and genuineness is done within the couples counseling and can greatly increase the connection and commitment to the relationship.
Supporting your partner in their eating disorder recovery and mental health treatment is invaluable. Being able to attend family sessions, family therapy groups, and education workshops can help you learn how to best support your spouse for their recovery.
To recap, intimacy has four components within any relationship. Being intimate on any level is extremely difficult for the eating disorder person to do, even with himself or herself. Engaging in therapy, supporting eating disorder recovery, and working together can strengthen and grow your relationship.
Libby has been practicing in the field of eating disorders, addictions, depression, anxiety and other comorbid issues in various agencies. Libby lives in the St. Louis area with her husband and two daughters. She enjoys spending time with her family, running, and watching movies.
Eating Disorders and Romantic Relationships. Retrieved June 11,from https: Intimacy and Anorexia Nervosa. Retrieved June 11,from http: Issues 4 Pages The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders.