National Eating Disorders Association

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I don't know how to help my girlfriend

I have been dating my girlfriend for almost two years now. Whenever she is not struggling, she is the most wonderful person I've ever met. When she is struggling, she is still an awesome person but her internal issues make her uneasy and ultimately unhealthy. She has struggled with anorexia and bulimia for over 10 years unfortunately, and I want her to see how it is to live without the constant worries about her self appearance. Recently I said something relatively benign (i.e. she asked if I knew why she exercised all the time and my response was simply to stay in shape), but due to the ED it caused her to relapse. She has been seeing a professional counselor for several years but due to working through trauma she has experienced, it also causes her to have issues with the ED. The issues started mostly due to people making fun of her weight when she was a child and she has been living with it since then. She is very headstrong, which means that she can get anything she puts her mind to, including losing weight.

Because I was the cause of her last relapse, she expects me to be able to help her get back to a suitable place, but I have no idea what to do. I've been as supportive as I can, and we are currently long-distance so I cannot even do anything in person right now. I try to let her know all the time that she is beautiful and a wonderful person, though many times I feel that she does not believe me. I try to watch my words and avoid anything that could be misconstrued in order to prevent any further damage to her self esteem.

I want to marry her one day... But I don't want to see her harmed because of her ED.

Hi rsevolve,

I'm sorry to hear about the struggles that your girlfriend is dealing with. I can tell how much you love and care about her, and she is very lucky to have someone like you in her life. I can really relate to your story because my best friend had an eating disorder and I was her main supporter throughout. It can be extremely confusing and draining, which makes it really easy to feel helpless. Please know that you're not alone in feeling this way.

I have a few suggestions for you that you may find to be helpful. Does your girlfriend's therapist specialize in EDs? If not, that may be something to consider bringing up to her, because EDs are so specific. You can call the NEDA Helpline at 1-800-931-2237 (M-R 9-9, F 9-5 EST) for helping finding an ED specialist in your area. The Helpline can also point you in the direction of support groups and other resources that may be a good addition to your girlfriend's treatment. Have you ever gone to a therapy session with your girlfriend? If not, I highly suggest doing so. You will be able to better understand her thoughts and feelings and vice versa, all with a moderator in the room. Finally, I suggest you look around NEDA's website for different tools and resources, starting here:

Please do not feel that you are responsible for your girlfriend's struggles. It's incredible that you care so much and want to help, but please remember to take care of yourself first.

Thank you again for posting. I hope to hear from you soon. Good luck!