After over 30 years of doing eating disorder recovery work with adults, I see examples of how the disorder developed as a way of coping with otherwise insurmountable emotional distress.
The cause may be a natural developmental weakness or a healthy developmental process that is thwarted by subtle or blatant trauma. Causes vary with the individual. Either way, recovery has to do with rebooting and nurturing the natural and healthy developmental process in the person.
I'm also seeing in many eating disorder clients a past or present or continued relationship with narcissists. The clients often are not aware they are subject to narcissistic abuse because they don't recognize it.
As they continue to experience the abuse their ability to think clearly and function well erodes. They feel guilt and shame. They feel isolated and overwhelmed with responsibilities.
The eating disorder gives them a break and creates a mindless zone of perceived safety. With these people, and this seems to be a growing population, recognizing abuse and discovering, then defending personal boundaries, is key to the beginning of solid recovery.
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Written by Joanna Poppink, MFT. Joanna is a psychotherapist in private practice specializing in eating disorder recovery, stress, PTSD, and adult development.
She is licensed in CA, AZ, OR, FL, and UT. Author of the Book: Healing Your Hungry Heart: Recovering from Your Eating Disorder
Appointments are virtual.
For a free telephone consultation, e-mail her at