The prevalence of eating disorders amongst teens, young adults and the adult population is quite high. Treatment approaches for eating disorders include evidence-based treatments such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (Mindfulness), Family-Based Treatments, and so on. Although traditional research revolves around the efficacy of such evidence-based treatment modalities when working with individuals diagnosed with some form of eating disorders, there is something that needs to be paid greater attention to.
That is the power of interpersonal relationships. Interpersonal relationships allow individuals to create bonds with other human-beings, especially if they are also going through similar situations. It provides a safe-place for these individuals to be able to communicate their shared experiences – which only amplifies mutual connection. For individuals who are diagnosed with eating disorders, this helps them find community which in-turn makes them become compassionate for others eventually leading them to become self-compassionate. Since they are able to create interpersonal relationships with others, communication eventually increases with-in their family as well. This only means further support from family such as parents, spouses, and caregivers as they are able to communicate their needs better.
Being amongst other individuals who exhibit symptoms of eating disorders allows the client to realize the importance of being themselves and accept their true form. By hearing and learning about realistic bodies and people’s shared experiences on perceptions of self-image, one can become self-aware of realistic expectations and this can help alleviate some of the symptoms. Interpersonal relationships and being around a community who exhibits shared experiences of the symptoms of eating disorders allows for normalization. Having a community makes them realize that they are not the only individuals who are going through this. This can lead to a decreased feeling of shame and/or embarrassment and symptom reduction can occur.
Hence, the link between interpersonal relationships and eating disorders is this – symptom reduction. Professionals tend to overlook the importance of interpersonal relationship when working with clients diagnosed with eating disorders. Perhaps the road to symptom reduction for this population lies somewhere between interpersonal relationships and evidence-based treatments. Whichever it is, a therapist should not favour one over the other – since every individual is different and the road to recovery looks different for everyone.
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