Stresses of Divorce Can Cause Eating Disorders

  • Cultural perceptions of women only having eating disorders are hurting men seeking treatment, support
  • Midlife eating disorders can form from the stress, anxiety of divorce
  • Finding support for your eating disorder will allow you a healthier future

"Separating or divorcing from a partner does not mean you shouldn’t take care of yourself."

As stated in a previous article, divorce can be a consumptive behavior, used to seek comfort from the disarray that the marriage entailed. As a society, one of the comforts more associated with the need to belong or to feel safe is food. Researchers have even ventured to say that it could be possible that all eating is emotional eating.

This emotional staple can create a crutch during times of trauma, after which, we seek comfort. The comfort of food can be a source of temporary relief from the stresses of life. As stressful as divorce or separation can be, seeking momentary comfort is a blameless crime, but left unchecked, it can spiral toward dangerous extremes like an eating disorder.

Numbers talk

Thirty million people of all ages and gender suffer from an eating disorder in the U.S., according to The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, Inc. Twenty million women and ten million men will suffer from a clinically significant eating disorder at some point in their lifetime, according to The National Eating Disorders Association.

There is a cultural perception that eating disorders only affect females, which has created a stigma that makes it more socially unacceptable for men to step forward and seek treatment on their own. However, there are no significant gender differences in characteristics of eating disorders, according to The Center for Eating Disorders at Sheppard Pratt.

Given that the mortality rate of males with eating disorders is higher than it is for females, the cultural perception that eating disorders only affect females is a dangerous inaccuracy that creates societal culpability for their perceived cultural norms.

Genetic and environmental factors play a part in the development of an eating disorder, according to Eating Disorder Hope. The genetic factors that can contribute to its development are a family history of eating disorders, predisposition toward anxiety or depression, and a tendency toward perfectionism.

These genetic factors paired with the mental and emotional weight of a divorce heighten the need for a coping mechanism. Abandonment issues are created through what can be an emotional trauma, and the need for a comfort zone becomes critical.

The creation of divorce-related triggers can cause unhealthy eating habits, according to Psychology Today. Getting back into the dating scene and general loneliness can often cause an irregularity in eating habits, lending itself to destructive eating behavior. According to the eating disorder awareness organization, Something Fishy, that level of loneliness can manifest, due to the idea that there’s a void inside one’s self. That type of thought process leads to overeating or binge eating.

Midlife eating disorder

There are a variety of factors that go into a divorce that can cause an eating disorder. These factors relate to an obsession with self-image.

People divorcing due to a cheating spouse might find themselves depressed and over-or-under eat due to feeling ugly, foolish, or inadequate.  People divorcing due to emotional or physical abuse, can seek comfort and safety in food, without the pressures of not needing to be accepted, which can cause these disorders.

Within the age in which couples seek separation or divorce from their marriage, there is an overlap with people facing eating disorder relapses. This can be attributed to a similar level of stress and anxiety, as they had previously felt.

Midlife eating disorders also can create body image issues for people after their divorces. The idea that “I have to be thin. No one will date me if I’m fat” can infect the psyche of someone who’s already experienced the mental and emotional trauma of a divorce, enabling unhealthy dieting and exercise behaviors in order to attempt to achieve an unachievable self-image of what a person should look like.

Finding help

Although we, at MensDivorce, would strongly recommend seeking help through proper healthcare channels, trained and dedicated to provide the attentive care needed to battle this dangerous issue, there are channels that provide care for those suffering from eating disorders outside of mainstream healthcare.

EDReferral is a service designed to provide information regarding the prevention of eating disorders, as well as methods of treatment. The National Eating Disorder Association has a helpline, dedicated to aiding the treatment of individuals with eating disorders. They also provide a wealth of information regarding rehabilitation facilities, treatments, counseling, and more.

Eating Disorders Anonymous is a program dedicated to the recovery of those looking to recover from eating disorders, through counseling and support.

The health risks and data continue to disprove any correlative skepticism regarding divorce and eating disorders. Behavioral tendencies that spiral into full-blown disorders can create hazards that if left untreated, can leave damaging consequences. Separating or divorcing from a partner does not mean you shouldn’t take care of yourself. Developing healthy habits with a consistent routine will lead to a better balance of health and wellness.

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