How Do Eating Disorders Affect Personal Relationships?

How Do Eating Disorders Affect Personal Relationships?

For some people, their eating disorder becomes the source of arguments within their most important relationships.

The person with the disorder may feel misunderstood by their friends and family. Meanwhile, their loved ones want to help but may not know how. These experiences are common for those suffering from an eating disorder.

Today we will explore the toll that eating disorders can have on relationships.

Eating Disorders, Mental Health, and Relationships

Interpersonal relationships are an essential component of recovery. Unfortunately, the eating disorder can strain relationships and make it challenging to establish new connections.

Many people with eating disorders live seemingly normal lives. From an outside perspective, they may even appear very successful by getting great grades in school or performing well at work.

However, family and friends may start noticing changes in their loved one. They may develop behaviors that make it difficult to maintain healthy relationships. In the section below, we will walk you through three ways that disordered eating commonly affects their interactions with other people.

Difficulty With Trust

When someone is struggling with food, they might be so overwhelmed by the thought of eating that they may not be completely honest about their behaviors. When their worried loved ones begin to notice these patterns, they may have difficulty trusting what the person with the disorder says.


Eating disorders are challenging for everyone involved. The person with the disorder is consumed by thoughts about food and wondering how they’re going to make it through each meal. Their friends and family become afraid for their loved one’s health and well-being.

This creates an environment where tensions are running high, making it hard to have calm, productive conversations about how they feel. A friend’s attempt to emphasize their concern about a loved one’s eating patterns may feel like an attack, causing the person with the disorder to become defensive or stop engaging in the conversation altogether.

If your loved one opens up to you about their eating disorder, they are sharing a very raw, vulnerable piece of their life with you. Responding in any way that they perceive as judgemental or insensitive, even if that wasn’t your intention, may cause your loved one to feel less safe discussing their struggles with you in the future.


People who restrict their food intake may become anxious at the idea of eating at a social engagement and choose to stay home. They may begin to isolate themselves rather than spend time with the people they care about.

Isolation also doesn’t mean a complete absence of relationships. Research has shown that negative relationships increase both eating disorder symptoms and feelings of loneliness.1

Getting Help For The Relational Side Effects of Eating Disorders

The best way to fight an eating disorder is with support, including the support of a treatment team. Through treatment, you will learn skills to help you not only overcome your eating disorder, but also rebuild trust and connection within your relationships. Shoreline has multiple levels of care available to meet your specific needs. Our team would be happy to talk with you about your options. To learn more, give us a call at 562-434-6007 or complete our contact form.


  1. Loneliness and eating disorders – PubMed (nih.gov)