National Eating Disorders Association

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Violet_Raven
I need help, please. I am new to this and I'm scared.

Hello,
I am not even sure where to start with this.
I've been dating my girlfriend for about 11 months already. When we first started dating, I could tell that she has been suffering from an eating disorder, but I didn't realize how bad it was until about 5 months into our relationship. I would always notice how she would pick at her food instead of actually eating it. She would give the illusion that she was eating. She has told me that she is literally afraid to put food in her mouth. She is afraid to eat because she doesn't want to be overweight. About 2 years ago, she dropped a lot of weight because of how badly her family was torturing her about it. Her family is a great source of stress for her.
She is now at near her lowest weight and she is genuinely happy about it, I have noticed an incredibly frightening transformation. When we started dating, she was fuller and she had muscle tone. We are in college and I've been noticing that every time we go on a break and she goes back home to her family, she comes back skinnier and skinnier. She doesn't purge or throw up. She just refuses to eat. She may have a snack here and there throughout the day, but she refuses to eat. The only time she does eat is if I take her out to a restaurant or I cook something. My schedule is so hectic that I don't always have the time to eat with her. Sometimes she will lie to me and tell me that she has eaten, but I can hear her stomach growl. When she does get desperate enough to eat, she'll binge and then feel terrible about herself. The cycle happens of starving and binging just goes on and on. Even if she says that she's "starving", she will refuse to eat. I do know she has been struggling with a lot of depression lately. I know she has had past traumas that contribute to her negative body image.
She normalizes her problem. She is in denial, she says that it isn't a big deal but I see how skinny she is. She still thinks she's overweight but she is extremely underweight. How do I make her understand? How do I get her to seek professional help? My pleas fall on her deaf ears. I have told her how worried I am. She is slowly killing herself. How do I talk to her about this? I would really appreciate any help. Please. I am so scared for her, I don't know where else to turn.

_admin_moderator
Hi Violet_Raven,

Hi Violet_Raven,
Thank you for sharing your story here on the forums! We edited some small parts of your post since our goal is to keep the forum free of very specific numbers regarding behaviors and other triggering material, but we are glad you've brought up this situation that many others can surely relate to!
NEDA Forum Moderators

nanzhu
Stay strong!

Hi Violet_Raven,
First of all, I think you are SO strong for sharing this difficult situation you're in and your girlfriend is very lucky to have such a caring partner! It's clear that you care about her so much and seeing her suffer is taking its toll on you as well. I think that being aware of her problems and trying to help her in any way you can is the most you can actively do - and that is incredibly admirable and inspirational!

It is definitely hard to support someone with disordered eating, especially when they don't seem to be concerned with the situation. I definitely think that helping your girlfriend get involved with a medical professional is an important step, whether it's her primary care doctor, a therapist, or other professional who she might be able to open up with and receive help. The NEDA Helpline (1-800-931-2237 M-R 9-9, F 9-5 EST) is a good place to start to find possible resources that can help you. The NEDA Navigators program (http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/neda-navigators) is another great resource that can help match you up with someone who themselves or who has a loved one who has been affected by an eating disorder, to help offer support and share their experience and what may have been useful to them.

In the meantime, here are some links that might be helpful as well:
Parent, Family, Friends Network: http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/parent-family-friends-network
How to help a friend: http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/how-help-friend-eating-and-body-i...
What should I say: http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/what-should-i-say
Treatment options: http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/treatment

Again, I think that staying supportive and letting your girlfriend know you are there for her is the best foundation for support that you can provide. Stay strong and I hope some of the resources above are helpful!
Best,
Nan

torib23
Violet_Raven,

Violet_Raven,
It is so clear that you care very strongly about your girlfriend, and I think she is very lucky to have someone like you in her life. I too have experienced seeing a loved one suffer from ED, and I definitely understand how difficult and helpless it can feel. As nanzhu said, I think one of the first steps you can take is to talk to her about getting professional help. Calling the NEDA Helpline at 1-800-931-2237 (M-R 9-9, F 9-5 EST) is a good place to start, as they’ll be able to point you in the direction of various resources in your area. Maybe if you approach her with specific resources in hand, she’ll be more willing to listen and try them out. Another thing I would suggest is to make sure she knows that you’re there for her, even if you can’t do much else. Knowing that someone will be there for her to support her in her darkest times is something that will prove to be priceless as she continues on the road to recovery.

Best of luck,
Tori

Violet_Raven
I appreciate all of your

I appreciate all of your comments. Should I offer to go to preliminary therapies with her? Should I get involved at all or should I just help her find treatment and leave it alone from there? I don't want to scare her out of it, but at this point, we have no other alternatives. I told her I would never force her to go to treatment, but I also don't want this to get so out of hand that something bad happens to her. I don't want her to wait too long either. In her rational moments, she does acknowledge that there is a problem. But this is rare. She'll contradict herself and keep saying that there is no problem. However, she still cannot say "I have an eating disorder". She can't say the words "eating disorder".

She recently signed up for a study at our University that seeks to catalog eating disorders on a spectrum; much in the way that the term "Asperger's syndrome" is now no longer its own disorder, but it belongs on a spectrum of Autism (as an example). The researchers of the study told her that, given her history, she is currently at the lowest weight she's ever been. When she told me this, she was both happy and sad. So I think on some level, she does realize what is going on; she's just addicted. She tells me she's addicted to the way starving herself feels.

I'm trying to be supportive and I'm trying to be available, but there isn't much more I can do. I can see how this is affecting her mood, her memory, her overall demeanor. I try not to get frustrated, but I feel like a broken record.

spencerspencer
You are a very strong person

You are a very strong person to be taking all of this on. My girlfriend suffers from an eating disorder (and so do I, though mine never reached the severity of my partner's) and I am familiar with the frustration and fear that comes from loving someone who is hurting themselves.

It is an addiction. It is something that makes the person both excited and horrified. It feels like the eating disorder is in control and everything else is secondary. I am fortunate enough that my partner sought treatment early and willingly. However, her feelings towards treatment have been inconsistent and that can be a very scary thing. Sometimes she finds the joy and pride in treating herself right, in acknowledging her own progress. Sometimes she gets so annoyed with doctors telling her what to do. Sometimes she says that she does want to get better. Sometimes she says she's only in treatment so that they'll leave her alone. I've found myself in the category of people whom she wants to leave her alone. Recently she's stopped treatment because she was doing so well. But with changes in her schedule I can see old habits coming back. I am fearful that things will snowball and we will be back where we were before.

I guess what I am trying to say is that it can get better. And then it can get worse again. It's not an easy journey by any means. But it is invaluable to offer your support and love to someone suffering in this way. You can make an incredible difference in their life. This is an unfortunate disorder that seems to change people's personalities. But inside they are still themselves and often need you to help them remember that. Please, please remember to take care of yourself.

torib23
I definitely think that

I definitely think that offering to go with her to therapy sessions is a good idea. She may be more receptive and open to the idea of going if she knows that you’ll be there for support. Many people are scared of being too vulnerable, and having you there will definitely curb this fear for her. Also, I think it would be good for you to be there to fill the therapist in on what you’ve noticed and what she’s told you, because it’s possible that your girlfriend won’t completely open up otherwise.

Again, I wish you the best of luck.
Tori

husband2eatingd...
tough road ahead

You sound a like a decent guy who really cares for your girl, kudos to you for not running away when you saw how serious this was. You need to get your girl into a good medical doctor asap. Find a doctor who deals with ED's. You need to have a honest and frank discussion about where her health is and where it is heading. My wife would not listen to my pleadings and beggings, but when the doctor told her she could be dead in a month or two, she started to realize the seriousness of the situation. If she is in a really poor health and her organs are starting to shut down, she needs to go inpatient at a good center. I came to realize that my wife had passed the point where she could get better by herself and that inpatient was the only answer to keep her alive. She is alive, I am happy to say, but the road that you will travel on with her will be a hell. Get a good support system going for you, you will need it just as much as she will. This is a serious disease, you cannot be too worried, eating disorders lead to death all the time. Good luck my friend, do anything in you power to help her, she most likely won't be able to help herself :( I started writing a blog to hopefully give support and ideas to other guys struggling with a spouse who is afflicted with a eating disorder.

sandysmith537
Hi! I'm so sorry to hear

Hi! I'm so sorry to hear about your girlfriend. It must be really difficult as someone who cares to handle that, but so far you have taken the right actions.