National Eating Disorders Association

5 posts / 0 new
Last post
What to do if my wife refuses to go to an ED treatment center

Hi everyone, I am new to the forum. Thank you for the opportunity to express my concern and questions. My wife has struggled with anorexia for many years with it's up's and downs. Currently, her weight has dropped to an all time low. My worry has reached its max and I am looking into getting her into a treatment center. After speaking with a treatment center, it looks like she is approved to be admitted into the inpatient/residential care level. At this point, conversationally, she recognizes that she needs help, but getting the motivation and courage to go and get that help are two very different things for her. I love my wife very much and desperately want her to get the help she needs. Also, we have two "tween-age" daughters that I am concerned about as well. I know that my wife's choices are impacting our kids at some emotional level. As of right now, I am in communication with her parents to have a loving intervention regarding the reality and need for treatment.

Here are my questions...

What do I do if she refuses to go to treatment?

What are loving and helpful consequences if she refuses treatment?

I usually hate ultimatums, but right now I have two little girls I need to protect and I cannot stand by and watch my wife kill herself any longer. Any help and advise is very much appreciated. Thank you again for the opportunity to share my concern.


Hello, and welcome to the forums.

Her acknowledgement of needing help is a precious thing to need to protect. It's not a question of whether you like ultimatum, the quotation is will it work? Patience, however frustrating, it's our best tool, I think.

You can "sell" the idea of treatment as giving her more tools in life, but that she will still have all the control. She's going to react against losing her anorexia, strongly. But feelings are there before thought, so she might consider it after you talk and she said no. Don't argue. If she says no, give her a day to mull it over. Don't associate conflict between you two with this topic.

Say "I know it's scary as hell, I wish we didn't have to think about this. But you can get help, not because you need it, but because you deserve it".

Maybe you can have a chat with the help line before having this talk with her.

Good luck, and I wish you all the best.

Taking a Risk.

Hey Mirons,

In my experience, most people who are in your wife's situation are not clueless. They know they are in trouble, and it sounds like she knows it too, and may have known it for a long time. So it sounds to me like she's probably pretty clear on that point by now.

And must know that treatment is indeed what she needs.

But it's like Rogers implied : People in her position aren't being stubborn, they are frightened to death. The idea of surrendering control, as well as having to gain, goes against every single thing they have been trying to do up to this point. While they know that they will have to do these things, the idea of it seems absolutely wrong, and simply the thought of it can just be overwhelming, to the point where it's just too much to think about.

The fact that she's hit such a low weight may actually be a reflection of the fact that she knows things can't go on the way they are. What I mean is, when people with EDs get anxious, often the way they try and regain a sense of control is by restricting even more. Not necessarily on purpose, but more on an instinctual level.

Whatever the case, I believe she knows that she needs treatment. If she were talking with other women who were in her position, I can pretty much promise you that they'd be telling her the same thing.

So it all pretty much gets down to her being willing to take a risk. Treatment might not work out, she may have to gain, it may feel like other people are trying to take control of her - All of those things that she fears could indeed be true.

So when you talk with her about this, I think it's worth getting those fears out in the open and naming them, because I can pretty much guarantee you that they are the things which are holding her back.

So…Pretty much the only thing is for her to be willing to take a risk, even in the face of these fears. That's kind of what it gets down to I think. Being willing to take a risk for herself.

Will she be able to ? Hopefully she will be able to frame the issue in these terms, where it's a decision she makes for herself, rather than a situation that feels like others are trying to rest control from her and force her into doing it just to please others and get them off her back.

So that's what I would try and go with if it were me : The whole thing with treatment might or might not work out, so it's a matter if she's willing to take a risk for herself.

I think we kind of honor people, by understanding their fears, but having a certain supportive faith that they might be able to take some risks for themselves in spite of those fears.

In any case, just a few things to think about. I hope you'll keep writing.

Bob J.

She decided to go to treatment

Hi, thank you so much for your helpful advise. Just to give a quick update, my wife decided to proceed with treatment. This is a huge answer to prayer. Now the real work begins. Please pray that her heart continues to focus on her healing not on what is happening at home. I know that is nearly impossible. I cannot imagine how hard this is for her. I am so proud of her courage.

Mirons : A big step alright !


Yes, things proceed in steps that's true. And seeing her now being willing to take a step this large, in spite of what must be some understandable fears and reservations about doing so…It's a really big deal that's for sure.

Like you said, she'll need to feel OK about focusing on this, rather than worrying about what's going on on the home front.

So letting her know that you've got that part covered will help I think.

But yes, it's a pretty brave thing on her part, given that she still may not know what to expect.

You didn't mention if she was going off to a program. Is that what the plan is at this point ?

Bob J.