National Eating Disorders Association

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I want to support and help my wife

Hi everyone

My name is Chris. My wife suffers from an eating disorder. I suffer from depression. The 2 have collided and I have not been as helpful or supportive of her as I thought I was. My wife has had an eating disorder for many years. She has done very well until the past couple of months. I noticed her mood change. She was always unhappy and wanted noting to do with me. I automatically thought that I was the problem which lead to an increase in my depression. Things have continued to go down hill. I really thought I was helping and being supportive, however after a lot of reading and research, I found that I was making things worse. I wanted to start this topic of discussion to seek help and advice on ways I can help her. Thanks

Welcome to NEDA!

Hi [email protected]!

Welcome to the NEDA online community forums! We are so glad that you have come here for some help and support! I am so sorry to hear what you and your wife are going through right now. It seems like a lot to deal with but I know you're doing your absolute best to be supportive of your wife, despite having struggles of your own to deal with. I do have experience with an eating disorder and depression. I believe that eating disorders, anxiety and depression are inextricably linked but I have also experienced depression on its own.

Being in a relationship, where both parties are dealing with mental illnesses can make things very difficult to manage. How do you deal with your own symptoms you're experiencing? Do you speak to someone (a therapist, a friend or family member) about what you and your wife are going through right now? Does your wife speak to someone or is she trying to get help for her eating disorder?

The NEDA website has a lot of great resources for you to utilize, such as the Information and Referral Helpline phone number. There you can speak privately with trained volunteers about different treatment options for your wife and for yourself too in your local area! The telephone number is 1-800-931-2237 and the phone number it is available Monday-Thursday, 9:00 am - 9:00 pm and Friday from 9:00 am - 5:00 pm (EST).

Please let keep us updated on how you and your wife are doing and if there is anything more we can do to help! You always have a listening ear here on the NEDA forums.

Erin_Patricia1 <3

RE Welcome

No neither of us speak to anyone right now. I have been dealing with my issues on my own. She has been coming to me for help and dealing with my problems, I have been very little help to her. Thank you for your post and the information you provided.


Hi Chris,

welcome to the forums.I hope you find the help you need. We don't know much about you two, so I guess we'll need to know you a bit more for meaningful advice. I'm sorry both of you are suffering.

Depression is a big part of EDs, that makes you more experienced to understand at least part of what she is going through. With depression we feel useless, aimless, and without hope. They feel the same, but something tells them they will feel better if they do exactly as their ED tells them. And tells them they will be punished if they don't, it tells them everything bad they feel is because they didn't listened before. At the same time, they know it's a lie and a trap, but they don't want to oppose that voice,because that prospect fills them with fear. It offers a temporally fix, as a drug, for their depression, and they become addicted to it.

This is an over simplification,but I hope it makes sense to you.

I've been at this,being wrong 95% of the time for nearly 3 years now. And almost every week I hear something that I think "There's no coming back from this", and then it is. Then there is some improvement, or at least she values I'm at her side. I don't know where I get my strength from, or how I find the words to bring her back from her dark places, but I know that having this forum has helped a lot.

There's not much good we can do. The same word can help one day and make her hate you the next. It's not your fault. She probably knows this. Not that knowing helps a lot to protect our feelings. I hope that knowing you are not alone helps.

Take care of yourself and keep us posted.

RE Welcome

Thank you very much for your response. I finally see that I am not alone in this. I want to help her more than anything. I am a 33 year old man who suffers from depression. I have many of my own struggle I face on a daily basis. I struggle with the feeling of rejection and not being wanted. With the battles my wife is having, her sex drive is almost gone. So automatically I feel not wanted and rejected. Any advice in this area? I see her day and day out struggle. One min she is happy, the next mad, and the next crying. I stay in a state of confusion on what to do or say. We have been married going on 12 years and I value her and our marriage more than anything.


It is completely normal that you need to feel wanted and valued. We all do.

People with EDs have a lot of self hate, they despise their own body. So try to understand how using her "unworthy" body to give pleasure to another, feels completely wrong and scary. Sex and any form of intimacy and closeness scare them, and it has nothing to do with you.

Food is life, with time, EDs attack not only food but anything that means life, sex, love, hope, friendships, laughter... It's the evil friend that tells them, they will lose control if the enjoy things too much, if they let go. I think it also has to do with nourishment, their brain lacks some nutrients that are needed to have a sex drive.

It sucks big time. Tell me about it. But if she has some, be sure it is because she loves you and wants you very much. Because it comes very hard for them. All of us struggle with trying not to think it is because of us,that she doesn't love me anymore, that she doesn't feel attracted to me. On the bad days it is almost imposible not to think that. But you have to try your best, because it truly isn't you.

I practically gave up on sex, I'm focused on not losing her, and I don't mean as a couple, I mean that she stays alive. And once you realize how serious this is, not thinking about sex gets easier. Even though I desire her very very much.

I try to get some intimacy, I ask her to let me brush her hair, massage her hands or legs...Something that feels safe to her. And I enjoy that very much. I scared her many times in previous months, not even trying to make out. So try to talk about where the limits are, and be ready to respect them. That way you'll minimize the chances for rejection,that hurt so bad.

She needs to feel safe and she needs to talk to you. You've been trying to be there for her, and even when you made mistakes, you always wanted her to be happy and safe. Let her know that you know she needs to take care of some things alone, and that you respect that, but that you are there, very close,if she needs anything from you.

Let me tell you that you need some distance. You need an emotional armour. This time she can't help you and both of you must take care of yourselves in parallel. She must already feel responsible for you and your suffering. And that only makes things worse for both of you. As it's hurting you feel responsible for her. You can support each other, of course,but you can't carry each other's burden.

I gather that when she is mad, there's nothing I do or say that makes her stop, only time. So I give her space, and I try my best not to think about it and be patient, and if I can keep my mouth shut, surely, eventually she comes in a better mood. I've observed that in myself too. I get mad and I can complain non stop and keep my angry mood... But if I manage not to talk about it, eventually what I only want is to make peace, and forget what happened. This situation keeps us tense, and we can get hooked on some nonsense and feel it's the end of the world.

Stay strong.

Great advice

Thanks so much. That is really good advice. Yesterday was a really good day. I was off work and we enjoyed the day at home. It was not perfect by any means but it was a good day. We talked for a very short time and agreed that our "demons" don't play nice together. I will continue to post and update. You have no idea how much it means to have someone to talk to who understands. Thank you


I'm really glad to hear about your day.

I believe we should celebrate small victories as great triumphs. Don't they, our demons, as you called them, made a great failure out of a small setback? So we have to fight them back with whatever we can.

If we accept we are not right, we have to be realistic about our goals, and be happy when we reach even small milestones. I tell my GF: you wouldn't ask Stephen Hawkins to run a marathon, if he could one day tie his shoes, he would feel great about it.

For people with severe mental issues, many days even getting out of bed is great work, and it should be valued. More than anything I think we should mark our calendars with this, one day we thought nothing would be any good again, and the next day it was worth it. So the next time we are low, we have to know we can be up again. What we thought impossible, was, in fact, possible. That can give us some confidence, and power not to listen to the negative thoughts we all have.

We are here to listen, it makes my day when someone tells me I helped, so we all win.