National Eating Disorders Association

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Wife has severe ED

I'd love to know or get to know a group of spouses who are working with their loved ones (my wife for me) and how to get through this with her. She is 39 years old, was checked into inpatient clinic last September for anorexia athleta and spend the month there. Since she got out it has been really hard and I pour all my energy into her and we have two kids. I just want to find people here that I can share experiences, get information, learn, figure out how to, and manage my own life as I feel I'm beginning to be worn down and at times she gets really irrational especially the week before her period.

Any help, direction, guidance on where I need to go on this website is much appreciated.

Hi eysb2,

I'm so sorry to hear about your wife. I can relate on somewhat of a level because my best friend struggled with an eating disorder. Although our situations are different in that respect, I still went through the experiences of caring for a loved one who struggled with an ED.
I completely understand how difficult and draining it can be as a supporter, and I think you've come to the right place for support. When my best friend struggled, I did everything I could to educate myself about what was happening. This helped me understand her better as well as not feel so helpless in the situation. I read books about EDs, and I also did a lot of research of NEDA's website. I definitely recommend you do that as well.
The other thing I would suggest to you is to seek out help for yourself. Just as your wife shouldn't go through this alone, you shouldn't either. Professional help (in the form of therapy, support groups, etc.) can do wonders for you, and I hope you'll consider it as an option. You can call the NEDA Helpline if you're looking for a place to start.

Please keep us updated, I wish both you and your wife luck!

Eysb2 Reply

The NEDA community is so glad you have found the Partners/Spouses of Sufferers forum for help and some guidance in regards to your wife's struggle with an eating disorder. Eating disorders can be really difficult to deal with at times and especially if you’re trying to manage your own life and your two children, as well. However, you have come to the right place for some support, to gain some more information, to share your experiences, and to know that you are not alone on this journey. The NEDA website has some valuable information for Partners/Spouses of Sufferers, such as, the NEDA Information and Referral phone number, support groups in your local area, and also other treatment options for your wife. The NEDA Information and Referral phone number is 1-800-931-2237 and the Helpline volunteers can be really insightful and can offer you a lot of different resources to you, your wife, and your two children, as well. I really hope you find what you’re looking for through the NEDA website and let us know how things are going.

Check In

Hi Eyesb2!

I just wanted to check in with you to see if there were any recent updates since you last posted in regards to your wife and your children! I hope you and your family are doing well!


I feel your pain.

I feel your pain.

My girlfriend is 37, and she has 2 kids from a previous relation. I take care of the three as often as I'm allowed. So we are often a family. I share your experience almost word for word. The period is hell, she slightly gains weight on liquid retention, and she positively knows it will be gone after her period days, but it makes her really mad.

I'm worried about her health, specially mid and long term, because she accounts minimally for the short term stuff. But I'm mostly worried because I fell in love with her for her mind, she is bright. But when it gets to this, and some days this is the only thing in her mind, she is completely irrational, and it kills me to see her like that. To see that her logic gets so twisted, and she doesn't make sense.

I have to be very careful on what I say to her, because I can trigger the opposite response to anything I think I'm saying, it's like flipping a coin. Even if I say "you are beautiful" she could take it as "then when I was overweight I wasn't beautiful, I was a monster" and stop talking to me for some hours. Any comment from anyone, she can take it like that. Even if she tells me she understands the good intentions behind a comment, she embraces only her hurtful reading of the comment.

I really liked her better before but I don't tell her that. She doesn't believe it either, when I say I always liked her the same. I try to be supportive no matter what kind of body she has, but I tell her I'm very concern on her health, and I love her always. I live in fear of making things worse, and I know I can do so little to make things better (only she can get better).

She doesn't want to get better, but she has promised to stop losing because she doesn't want to be confined to a hospital, no other reason. She doesn't lose quicker, she says, because she cares about me and the kids. And she completelly refuses to take any therapy of any kind. She tried in the past and she doesn't trust anyone anymore.

I'm also afraid she might stop telling me what she does and what she thinks. Even if it's painful to hear, I believe it's a good think that she trusts me enough to tell me.

She eats very little per week. Most of the time she fasts. Then at night she smokes a joint, which is prescribed for her insomnia, and she gets the munchies, and she eats mostly junk food. I studied to become a nutritionist and I was into macrobiotic food for a while, and read everything about healthy food, and I'm horrified she's going months without taking the essential nutrients. She feels awful, tired, headaches, no sleep, weak, nausea, tremors, dizziness...You name it. But all that is only the short term effects. Her cells are going without Iron, calcium, magnesium, vitamins...Etc for a long time, and I can't begin to show the importance of this to her.

Also, she doesn't get any support anywhere else. Her family makes everything worse, her kids are really difficult and not grateful in the least (not their fault, bless them). She's gone isolated from her friends, and those she kept, don't know about her ED. So I feel I'm alone against a mountain.

I can't find any info that helps me to help her. She is completely aware that she has an ED, and that she is irrational and mentally ill. Everything I find, she already knows. I feel it's the rational part of her what needs to win over this fight. That she realizes she's not feeling well or being happy living like this. And she could be happy and well if she is in charge and not "her friend, Ana".

If it was a magical tool or answer, it would be known by now. So I guess is patience and support and therapy would be nice, because behind this is her nonexistent self esteem, and behind that many many bad experiences that are unresolved, also society (she sees people respect her more now that she's thin) and many other factors.

I wish and pray it gets better, for you and for everyone in this situation. Good luck.

Hi Rodgers12

Hi Rodgers12,

Thanks for writing in to the forums! We just wanted to let you know that a very small portion of your post was edited in order to adhere to NEDA's community guidelines ( Please continue posting! :)

Hi Rodgers12

Hi Rodgers12,

Thanks for sharing your similar experience with your girlfriend. I can only imagine how difficult it must be for you having to see your girlfriend suffer like this. She is lucky to have someone like you who can support her through these issues. You seem to very knowledgeable of eating disorders in terms of your girlfriend's symptoms, but in case you need additional resources, the NEDA website is a great place to browse. There are even resources offered specifically for loved ones of those suffering, such as yourself. You can call the NEDA helpline at 1-800-931-2237 and volunteers will be more than happy to help you in helping your girlfriend. Although it may not seem like it, I am sure your support is a huge help to your girlfriend. I hope things get better for you and for her, and keep us updated with any progress. We're always here to listen. Good luck!


Hi Rodgers12 and eysb2,

I'm sorry to hear about the suffering of you and your loved ones. I hope you find some of the support and information you're looking for through NEDA. I just wanted to share a few specific resources that might be of use:

The NEDA Parent Toolkit (It's not just for parents! It has great information for anyone who has a loved one who is struggling with an ED.)

NEDA Parent, Family & Friends Network: This page has some great listings.

The NEDA Navigators program can connect you with someone going through a similar situation who can provide guidance:

You may find partners/couples counseling, or even individual counseling for yourself, to be helpful. The NEDA Helpline is a great way to find out about therapy and support groups near you. You can call or chat online:

I speak from experience when I say that I know how hard it can be to watch a loved one fight an ED. EDs are ruthless and affect not just the individual, but everyone around them. However, recovery is possible! Your loved ones are in a much better position because they have people like you in their lives. You both sound like very supportive partners, and it's great that you're reaching out to NEDA and trying to learn more so you can help. I wish you and your loved ones luck! Please keep us updated. We're always here to provide support.


Thanks a lot,

The kind words of support from all of you help a lot. And give me strength to keep seeking help and information.

Thanks for editing my post and not be angry about my infractions :-) I included some numbers that I know now that I shouldn't.

My girlfriend reads and posts in a forum of people with EDs. They are not looking for a way to get better, just not to feel alone in the way they think. What do you think about these sites? I understand her need to feel understood, the feeling that her thoughts are not that wrong if she finds more people that think like her. She says it helps her a lot, and that she's eating a bit more because of this. But I see that since she is there, it's almost her only topic of conversation, and I don't see her any happier, nor any healthier. I feel it's not good for her. But I know feeling alienated from the rest of the world doesn't help her either.

Best wishes to everyone.

Hi Rodgers12,

I don't personally know of any other sites that have forums for people with EDs so I can't give you my opinion on them. I do know, though, that NEDA's forums have been a great help to me and so many others (and hopefully you too). If you're worried the other site isn't good for her, it may be useful to direct her to NEDA.


not the same kind of forum

She doesn't want to be helped. She likes that one because it's not about recovering. It's sounds like a cult to me, they are somewhat proud of having an ED. Some are hurtful to other members, many are triggering and even offer advice to be successful on what they try. Others understand it's an illness and would trade themselves for a healthy person with normal self esteem, but just can't. My girlfriend claims that she only listens to these last type, but she also comments to me some post of the other kind, she finds them awful, but I bet something gets to her too.

It scares me that people there have told her that she's taking this too far, that her measures are too extreme. So even for them, for their standards, she's punishing her body too much.

She wouldn't come to NEDA. Not at this stage at least.

Today she shut me out again, she was mean to me and told me she was so affected by her life that she couldn't be kind, that she is sorry because I'm the only one good to her, but that she can't do it better. My friends ask me why I put up with her, and with this situation so complicated (and they don't know the tip of the iceberg). But I'm the only one believing this is not her. On the one hand it is her illness. On the other hand her circumstances are really difficult in all areas, she can't catch a break, and she's had a very awful past. You would think then it's the best time to have an ally, a friend...But when things are good, she feels she is too dependent on me, and she gets scared and she puts some distance.

Even if I can try to stay calm and think, my feelings are involved, and these days, when it seems that she chooses to think she needs to put me in her enemies list, I feel completely beaten. It's really hard to find a way to tell her "it's OK, let's look ahead, not behind". Tomorrow she'll tell me I deserve a better girlfriend, and that she can't be in a relationship. I hope I find the strength and the words to ask her to keep trying. I love her and I love the kids. Leaving them alone to face everything it's not an option.

W2GFHLish us luck.

Stay strong!

Hi Rodgers12,
I know what you mean about certain sites (or movies too) being more enabling than helpful for recovery. I'm sure you already do something like this, but when she brings it up maybe you can steer the conversation towards recovery rather than indulge in any ED-related thought processes? Hopefully she will make use of the NEDA forums soon. It's really hard to support someone that does not yet want help! Maybe you can convince her to speak to a doctor or a psychologist for other issues, not specifically her ED? Maybe in a roundabout way you can get her motivated to take action. For example, if she is also depressed or anxious perhaps getting treatment for that will help and encourage her to open up about her feelings? This also sounds very hard for you, do you have a good source of support? Have you considered speaking to a health professional so you can get some support for your own well-being and for advice on how to support her?

Please keep us updated,

Hi Rodgers12

Hi Rodgers12,

I'm sorry to hear that you and your girlfriend are going through all of this. I agree with Mel - it is so hard to support someone that does not want your help, but it is so great of you to continue to support your girlfriend, even with her resistance. Maybe your girlfriend is scared to face her ED on her own? Could you possibly try calling the NEDA helpline together, or going through the webpage? The helpline can be reached from 9-9 EST M-Th and 9-5 EST F, and the website has a lot of great sources for people with ED and their loved ones. Having someone that is willing to sit with you and support you through the process can be so beneficial, and maybe it will help your girlfriend become more eager to seek help.

I hope you keep us updated!

- ashleyk

Part of who she is

One of her defenses is that this illness is part of what she is. She is fed up with trying to fit in with people (most social gatherings are around food). And she sees seeking help or wanting to recover as something to do to please other people, not for herself. Of course, I try to steer her reasoning towards other paths, with love and patience. If I can get her to admit one positive thought I consider that day a small victory. She sees this thing as the only thing she controls, and that makes her feel better (once better, ten times worse, as I see it). And so she is attached to it.

So my goal is to make her see that she is way more than this thing, that this is making her be less of what she can be without it. And that she is in control of other things and that other things can make her happy too.

This thing has kidnapped her mind, and she has Stockholm syndrome. I have to get her to know that this is not what defines her.

I've thought about setting a date, secretly, with her doctor. She, the doctor, must suspect she has an ED, but she doesn't know for sure because my girlfriend lies to her. If she knows maybe she can help her better, and she can give me some advice. What do you think?

Have a good weekend, everyone.


I have been following your conversation and maybe you have read of my situation with a bulimic wife. I do share your frustration and sadness and I see you going down the same path as I have in the past- at times consumed by our spouse's disease. My experience was that this approach brought on for me suppressed anger, depression, compulsive overeating and indecision about whether to stay in the marriage. I had to make the hard decision (with the help of prayer) to step back and detach with love. Otherwise, not just one but two people were slowly doing great harm to themselves. I continue to actively talk with professionals, pray, look for moments when I can be most supportive of my spouse and that is all I can do. I did speak to her doctor and nothing came of it to my knowledge other than more potassium pills and a bunch of other meds. Every single thing I tried to fix her did not work. Sadly, she may even pass away from this disease. If that is to happen, I can not go through life thinking it was partly my fault. Every day is a new test and I have to remain strong for myself and her kids and for her. Wish there was an easier answer for us. Take care and please know you are both in my prayers.

Thanks wakeuptohope

Wow, wakeuptohope, thanks for your hard but sincere post.

I do think it's important to not despair. I wrote a lot, and I may come across as more desperate than I am. I'm concious that there's little that I can do, and that I can't "fix her". I will always try my best, but I know it's not my fault if she doesn't get better, she suffered from this years before she met me.

I've been in "suicide watch" more than once, as a friend and as her boyfriend, and I had to face the posibility of not being able to reach her one day, when she is in her dark place. Of course I'd feel guilty, I think that can't be avoided, but I know I do my best, I know many men would leave and start running not looking back.

But also, I have hope. Her life is in a very hard stage, almost every aspect went wrong in a short period of time. She has many open battles. Each single one of them is enough to crash one's spirit, and she has many. Anorexia being just one of them. She's not depressed without reason. So I believe when things start looking up, even this can improve. She beat it once. She was sick in her teens, with anorexia, and then bulimia, and she managed to beat it. (She tells me all those years she missed it, like an ex-smoker or alcoholic, that's scary too).

She tells me all the time "I'm not going to die". And I know she won't die of hunger, but she is punishing her body, and nobody knows how much of the damage is irreversible. That, she chooses to ignore. And I know she's clever enough to know it.

I wish you the best of luck, I wish a miracle happens to your wife. It sounds as she is lucky to have you at her side. I pray for your family too, and thanks for keeping us in your prayers.

Stay strong.

Hey Rodgers12

I just have to say that I very much respect you and wakeuptohope for being their for your partners in their dark times. EDs affect more than just those who have them, and unfortunately a lot of the times those who are afflicted don't realize that.

I also wanted to make sure that you guys have access to this number: Self-Harm Prevention line at 1-800-334-4357
If one of your partners sounds like they're getting serious about self harm, it is important to take that seriously. And I do believe that you can call on their behalf even if it's just to get advice.
There's also National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) in case you feel that they are a threat to their own well being.

Best of luck to the both of you. And do keep us updated here on the forums; we're here for you.