When you join the dating game, you realize that almost everyone out there has issues – it may be an incident from the past, hailing from dysfunctional families or dealing with medical conditions. So if you start dating and even get to like someone only to find out that the person has anorexia, it may leave you confused, worried and perhaps scared. But then should you wish to know the person better or indeed have a relationship, here is what dating an anorexic could be like.
Get the facts
If you suspect that the person you are dating is anorexic, first of all find out all you can about the condition. Anorexia nervosa is a kind of eating disorder which compels the patient to go on an extreme form of dieting. The afflicted person may start dieting to lose weight but over time it becomes a psychological condition, a matter of control over one’s body and fear of gaining any amount of weight. In advanced stages, anorexia along with restricted eating, is accompanied by symptoms like excessive exercising, overuse of diet pills to induce loss of appetite, use of diuretics, laxatives or enemas often to point of starvation. Once you know the facts, it will be easy for you to determine whether your date actually suffers from anorexic or is merely a picky eater. Anorexia actually goes beyond concern for obesity or out-of-control dieting – indeed at its extreme it is not even about looking good but a control issue over the body and its needs.
Don’t focus on weight
The anorexic mind is a delicate one – most of the times there is a dialogue going on in the mind of an anorexic – whether to get a tiny bite of apple or to leave it, whether to induce a vomit again or to let the body be. This is why you should be extremely careful of what you say to an anorexic, especially when it is about weight and body types. For instance if you are moved by your genuine concern to say, “You really shouldn't lose any more weight.", it is heard as a dare, a challenge by your anorexic partner. She will take it as an invitation to shed more pounds and a new goal to set. At its worst, she may think that you are probably fat or jealous or a liar yourself or have some agenda designed to keep her fat. Your opinion either doesn't count or is filtered as a lie or an exaggeration by the anorexic mind.
Or if you wish to offer your partner a positive comment, you may say something like, “I was worried you were going to get too thin, but you look just right". Even this may be misinterpreted by your partner. For an anorexic there is no such thing as too thin. And anyway she doesn't care what you think is too thin. Also telling her that she looks ‘just right’ isn’t going to help at all. ‘Just right’ is red flag for an anorexic – it is as good as fat. Thus the best thing would be to keep off remarks about body weight and body type which may trigger off destructive eating behaviors. It is necessary to let her manage her condition on her own.
Avoid talking of food
Many people joke that dating anorexics is easy on the pocket since they don’t want to eat anything at all. So no expensive dinners at fancy restaurants, sinful desserts which cost the earth or even popcorn at a movie. However fact is anorexics are constantly struggling with themselves whether to eat or not. So if your partner has actually finished the salad, don’t spoil it by saying something like "I didn't think you were going to eat any of that. I'm glad you did". This, like every other remark about food and weight, will be heard as a criticism. So when on a date with an anorexic, avoid pointing out what she is or isn't eating. You'll just trigger the voice in her head to start a dialogue about her lack of will power and she may even end up hating you for it.
Plan a date carefully
For the same reason take care not to plan a date around food or culinary experiences. All-you-can- eat buffets and chocolate-tasting classes may make satisfying date ideas for foodies, but if you are dating an anorexic, keep off these. Likewise, be careful when you are choosing a gift for an anorexic. Boxes of fine chocolates, scrumptious cookies or gourmet cheese which may delight others may not go down well with your partner. Also it may be good idea to stuff up yourself before you leave for your date, since your partner may not be too keen to spend the greater part of your date at a restaurant. Then again she may want more privacy than usual and even excuse herself from the table when you are visibly relishing your food.
Dating a person suffering from anorexia can be rather difficult. You may have to make several adjustments in your social life and even forego many of the things you enjoy doing. However if you genuinely wish to be in a relationship with an anorexic, there are ways you can help her deal with the condition. Don’t nag at her or emotionally blackmail her into seeing a doctor; this will only turn her off from seeking help. Rather listen with understanding, respect and sensitivity when she is ready to talk about her condition. Your partner probably needs your attention and support more than she would like to admit. Make a list of resources, counselors, support groups and hospitals where she can seek help on her own. If she gives an indication, help your partner by making that first call or appointment with a therapist and if need be, accompany her to the initial sessions.
Finally ensure that you have a place to get support for yourself. This is because helping a loved one with a psychological disorder can be emotionally draining. Be ready to ask for and accept support from both friends and professionals who are experienced in eating disorder intervention.