Eating Disorders and Domestic Violence: Is There a Correlation?

National Domestic Violence Hotline Blog

Eating Disorders and Domestic Violence: Is There a Correlation?

Since it was recently National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, we wanted to take a second to talk with you about the relationship between domestic violence and eating disorders.

The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) defines these illnesses as extreme emotions, attitudes and behaviors surrounding weight and food. Eating disorders are serious emotional and physical problems that can be life-threatening.

Like domestic violence, the root of eating disorders is a need for control.

However, unlike with domestic violence, this need for control does not come from a place of feeling superior or entitled to power. Instead, people who suffer from eating disorders often feel that they have no control over their lives or the things that happen to them, they feel inadequate or have low self-esteem or they suffer from severe depression, anger, anxiety or loneliness.

NEDA lists troubled family and personal relationships and history of physical or sexual abuse as two of the greatest interpersonal factors which cause people to develop eating disorders.

People who are suffering from eating disorders often use their obsession with food as a means of gaining back the control and order which they feel has been taken from them or lost in other aspects of their life.

Victims of domestic abuse have been stripped of their power and have very little to no control over their own lives or actions. They are physically and emotionally abused and are often deeply depressed and self-conscious. Abusers often isolate their victims from their families and friends so they feel as if they have no one to turn or talk to.

All of these things converge and form a kind of perfect storm and so it’s very likely that a person who is suffering from abuse will develop an eating disorder.

We want to remind you that if you or a friend or family member is a victim of domestic violence, we are here to help. We want to provide resources and guidance so that we can reduce the instances of self-harm in response to abuse.

If you or someone you know is suffering from an eating disorder, please contact the NEDA information and referral hotline today at 1-800-931-2237.

As always, we encourage you to contact The National Domestic Violence Hotline if you or someone you know is suffering from domestic violence.

Comment section

8 replies
  1. Thank you for this information!
    I had a question if you don’t mind. Would this include people who are only emotional abused by their spouse? Even if it doesn’t get physically violent? Such as an emotionally abusive wife or husband toward their significant other? Would that increase the likelihood of the abused getting an eating disorder?

    1. Emotionally Abused,

      Thank you so much for sharing with our blog community. As the post stated, abuse happens because one person feels entitled to power and control over their partner. Violence often begins with different forms of abuse like emotional and verbal. The article is questioning the correlation that eating disorders may be linked with people who are being abused. With that said, I am not sure if it increases the likelihood for all people in abusive relationships, but it may be linked in some cases.

      If you have more questions or would like to talk about what is going on, please feel free to contact The HOTLINE at 1-800-799-7233. An advocate is available 24/7 to offer guidance and support.


  2. It is unknown how many adults and children suffer with other serious, significant eating disorders, including one category of eating disorders called eating disorders not otherwise specified (EDNOS). EDNOS includes eating disorders that do not meet the criteria for anorexia or bulimia nervosa. Binge-eating disorder is a type of eating disorder called EDNOS. ‘-..*

    1. Melissa,

      Thank you for sharing with our blog community. If you would like to talk about your situation, an advocate is available 24/7 through the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1800-799-7233. Feel free to contact us 24/7 for guidance and support.


  3. hello,voces tem ajuda para abuso domestico que aconteceu no passado?
    14 anos atraz eu sofri abuso e quase fui assassinada,depois disso eu mim sinto
    sem valor,derrotada,e ja engordei 40 libras.antes eu pensava que nao precisava de ajuda.
    mas reconheco que estou deprimida e nao tenho dinheiro para pagar um profiissional na area.
    por favor mim responda o que devo fazer,obrigada

    1. Lana,

      Thank you for reaching out to our blog community. Please give us a call at 1800-799-7233. Advocates have access to an interpreting service 24/7.

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