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Eating Disorders Impact Relationships

How Eating Disorders Impact Relationships

Those who are romantically involved with someone who suffers from an eating disorder frequently report feeling less emotionally intimate in their relationships. Meet our eating disorder specialist, Hannah Lollar, LCSW at Gold Counseling, and learn more about it. For more information, contact us or book an appointment online. We have convenient locations to serve you in Riverdale UT, Kaysville UT, Draper UT, and St. George, UT.

How Eating Disorders Impact Relationships?
How Eating Disorders Impact Relationships?

Happy February! It’s almost Valentine’s Day, love is in the air… let’s talk about how eating disorders may show up in relationships. 

A lot of the research on this subject indicates that one partner in a relationship having an eating disorder may lead to issues in communication, sexual intimacy, and emotional health/well-being. 

Communication:

We often hear “communication is key” when discussing relationships. Picture a relationship where one partner in the relationship is struggling with an eating disorder. This can vastly impact communication between the partners of the relationship. 

Think of it this way, one thing that eating disorder specialists are incredibly aware of is how eating disorders thrive in secrecy. Secrecy is a breeding ground for shame and guilt, which then further feed into eating disorder thoughts, which contribute to eating disorder behaviors, and so on. 

A partner in a relationship with an eating disorder may keep parts (or all) of their eating disorder a secret from their partner because they feel guilty or shameful about the thoughts and behaviors they are engaging in. Eating disorders are so controlling and take over many facets of the life of the individual struggling with them. When we are keeping secrets about our daily thoughts and behaviors from our partner, this impacts the quality and even amount of communication in the relationship. 

Recovery thrives with support. Support from family, friends, AND romantic partners. Encouraging open and honest communication, even about the “embarrassing” or shameful things, is so important. This can lead to a quicker recovery. 

Sexual Intimacy:

Eating disorders can greatly impact sexual intimacy in relationships. For many people, intimacy is an important facet of their relationship with their partner. 

Medically, eating disorders impact hormones. This impact often leads to a decrease in estrogen and progesterone in women, as well as testosterone in men. These changes in hormones can impact sex drive, fertility, and more. 

Oftentimes, someone with an eating disorder may feel very self-conscious about their body, how others perceive them, and their self-esteem. This can lead individuals with EDs to feel hesitant and apprehensive about engaging in intimacy with their partners. 

Something to note and remember is that there are several different types of intimacy. It’s okay to explore all areas.  

Emotional Health/Wellbeing:

We know that eating disorders are a mental health disorder. This means that it is to be expected that the ED can impact an individual’s emotional health and well-being, as well as the emotional health of their relationship. Have you ever had a partner that was going through mental health issues and noticed that it didn’t only impact them, but you as well? We know very well that the eating disorder doesn’t just impact the person struggling with it, but their entire support system as well. 

As touched on with communication, eating disorders thrive in secrecy, which is where shame and guilt are born. These feelings can lead to a decline in emotional health and well-being. They can also lead to more volatile interactions with partners, as we know that a malnourished brain can’t heal, it has a hard time regulating emotions or doing much other than keeping the individual with the eating disorder alive. An inability to regulate our emotions can greatly impact the health and well-being of our relationships on many levels. 

All of these areas can be focused on in the treatment of an eating disorder. After you’ve read this article, it may help you be more mindful of how your eating disorder, or your partner’s eating disorder, may be impacting your relationship. Because I’d bet it’s in more ways than one. But there is so much hope, and so many struggles can be healed in recovery. 


Gold Counseling has therapists specifically trained in eating disorders to help you navigate the eating disorder itself, but also the fallout and secondary impact of the eating disorder in your life. Reach out today to schedule an appointment if you feel you are struggling with any of these things! We serve patients from Riverdale UT, Washington Terrace UT, Clinton UT, Kaysville UT, Clearfield UT, Farmington UT, Draper UT, Riverton UT, Sandy UT, St. George UT, Bloomington UT, Santa Clara, UT, and surrounding areas.

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