National Eating Disorders Association

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Partner refuses to get help and I'm scared for her life

I'm having a hard time writing this because it's upsetting me to even talk about it anymore but at the same time I feel like screaming. I (19, f) met my girlfriend (19,f) a little under a year ago in a class we shared at our community college. We've been together since then, and I've always known about her eating disorder-it was never a revelation or her confessing to me. From the beginning, I knew that certain places were to be avoided when we went out to eat, etc, and that she had meticulous behaviors that revolved around food and eating. Obviously, as we've been together, I've learned more about her disorder. She has been suffering from disordered thoughts surrounding food and body dysmorphia since she was 11 or 12, she started restricting a few years after that and when she was 17 she began restricting heavily. On the daily, she generally refuses to eat a low number of calories a day, and sometimes she will fast.

When I met her, she told me she was attempting some form of recovery-she had had a "wake up call" in the form of a doctor's visit after she didn't get her period for over 6 months. They tried to take blood but she hadn't eaten anything for days before the appointment, and as a result she passed out, seized, and then vomited and they weren't able to do labs. This was about a year ago, and it made her want to get better for a while, or at least try to. When I met her, I think she was already on the downward slope, and she says its worse now than it has ever been. She has heart palpitations, sharp pains in her chest and ribs, sharp pains in her limbs, she gets dizzy and nauseous, she can't walk up stairs without nearly passing out, and most recently after fasting, she woke up one morning and had a serious bout of vomiting. She is an adult, and refuses treatment adamantly. Her mother and I took her to Urgent Care 2 weeks ago at about 1 am, because of the heart things that were going on. The doctor barely looked at her, said "well you look fine, you look hydrated" and left for 30 minutes. He didn't come back, so we just left. The doctor's reaction made her feel like she isn't "sick enough," even though she is VISIBLY underweight.

Last week we took her back to the same doctor she first went to about her period last year, and after doing some tests they determined that she is, in fact, underweight (they didn't tell us or her her weight, and didn't write it down which she appreciated) and her heart is slowing down. The doctor then told her to come back in a week (which fell today) and gave her an assessment packet from the local eating disorder clinic.

Since then, the two of us have had numerous arguments about this. Our only disagreements or fights to date have been about her eating disorder, and her refusal to get help. She feels like her mom and I are forcing her into treatment, into doctor's tests and the like. I KNOW that you can't force someone to recover, but the doctor told us all that right now it's critical. She's doing serious and permanent damage to her body and she knows this but can't bring herself to seek help. She feels she's not sick enough, and refuses to seek help until she reaches her "goal weight." she reached her original GW months ago, and moves it down each time. The doctor flat out told her she will die before she reaches this one.

I know she's mad at her mother and I, and I know she feels weird about the openness with which her family is finally talking about this. Yesterday night, Her mom, mom's boyfriend, brother and I went to a "family night" at the clinic to learn how to better support her. It was geared mostly at people who had a loved one in recovery, or at least starting to recover. My girlfriend isn't close. She feels as if she can't, and I have seen how much she suffers. She has panic attacks every time she eats, she feels the need to purge constantly (although she hasn't done that in about a year,) she exercises obsessively and it's frankly terrifying how thin she's getting. The worst thing is she can't see that, no matter how obsessively she performs body checks, her brain makes her see herself entirely differently.

This is long, and there's so much more, and it's breaking my heart how much this is hurting her because I truly do intend to spend the rest of my life with her. I can't express how scary this is to me and how upsetting it is without causing her to feel guilt, which is not my intention at all. She feels she is being forced, or guilted, or unwillingly put into recovery before she is ready but if she doesn't seek help soon she could die. I'm terrified. I want to support her, I am there for her as much as I possibly can be, but I work and am in school (she is taking time off school,) so that's a lot of time she feels isolated and alone. During this time, she watches toxic movies that she KNOWS will trigger her (to the bone, similar movies) she scrolls through "thinspo," she does anything she can to purposely trigger herself.

Her brain twists everything I say or do to mean that I don't like her, or want to be with her. No matter how many times I repeat it, if I do something like fall asleep when we are watching a movie when I get off work, or even when I don't think I HAVE done anything, she gets so so upset. Of course I would never blame her for this, I know it's not HER. but at the same time, It's so hurtful. I feel absolutely helpless, I feel like I am standing around watching her kill herself, and when I do anything else she feels like she can't trust me anymore. I'm scared to lose her and I don't know what to do. I just want to beg someone to help, anyone, I'm not even religious but I've prayed for it. I'm desperate. I don't know what to do. I would do anything for this girl, I just have no idea what she needs.

Hello and welcome to the

Hello and welcome to the forums dangerousBlues. I am so sorry you're going through this with your girlfriend and I'm glad you came to the forums to seek support.Your post has been edited slightly because users are discouraged from posting specific numbers such as weights and behaviors which can be triggering to other members. The community guidelines can be found here:   You can also call our NEDA Hotline for more information and support: We are available Monday - Thursday, 9 AM - 9 PM EST and Friday, 9 AM - 5 PM at 1-800-931-2237. Thank you and please continue posting.


Dear DB,

You wrote :

" She feels she's not sick enough, and refuses to seek help until she reaches her "goal weight." she reached her original GW months ago, and moves it down each time. "

This certainly is how it goes with people who have EDs. And what it points out is that folks are not so much addicted to BEING thin, as they are to the PROCESS of getting thin.

All the obsessive self-discipline and self-denial, and the rigid control they exert over their lives and their urges - These are the things which help them feel safe in the world. Giving these things up is unthinkable, because….well…they might get…fat ? "Fat" being an emotional stand-in for the idea of their lives being totally out of control. And really, who among us could live with ourselves, or feel any sense of personal security if our lives were out of control ?

So once goal-weight is reached, you can pretty much understand why it needs to be lowered again, if the process of keeping emotionally safe is to continue.

Or so "ED Logic" goes.

And really, there is a form of logic to it. But one that pretty much has to ignore all of the horrible physical, psychological and relational problems that come with it.

It's also as you have said - Who can force them to look at things differently ? Will a packet from the local eating disorders clinic really have any effect ?

Whatever happens, for real change to begin, she's going to have to be willing to take some big emotional risks. And when the only thing that helps you feel existentially safe are your ED behaviors, that really is asking a lot of someone. "Dare to be Imperfect" you know ?

But that is what's going to need to happen. She is going to need to take some pretty big emotional risks for herself.

I think you are seeing just how hard that's going to be for her.

None the less, there's probably still a part of herself that understands that the situation is not good. "Everyone is trying to control me" may be what seems to be the worst thing to her now. But at some point she's likely to come to the conclusion that her ED is playing some role in why things aren't going so well. Being able to label her ED as "a problem" will be a big step for her, but it sounds like that's what's going to need to happen next, before any true progress can be made.

Anyhow, I'm rambling. I hope you can keep writing, if it seems to help at all.

Bob J.

I'm so sorry

Hi dangerousBlues,

I know you posted only yesterday but a lot of the symptoms your girlfriend is displaying is really concerning to me. Also, the doctor's comment who was working in the emergency department that night, is really frustrating and makes me angry just reading it. Those who suffer from eating disorders may appear healthy or might "look fine" (which sounds by what you are telling us, she is severely underweight), but might be extremely ill underneath it all. Coming from my own personal experience with an eating disorder (which my symptoms were at their worse right around the same age you and your girlfriend are), I also did not want help from anyone. The want to change has to come from her and it sounds like her eating disorder is in full control of everything in her life right now.

If there is anything we can do to help, let us know and continue writing if it helps. I know eating disorders most definitely take a toll not only on the sufferer, but also on the people around them. Please keep in touch if you can. You always have a listening ear here on the NEDA online community forums.