Silhouette of a family holding various parts of a cut out of a house.

How Do Family Dynamics Impact Eating Disorders?

There’s a reason many people harp on the importance of creating a strong and supportive household. All family members — whether sisters and brothers or mothers and fathers — can all have a sizeable impact on eating disorders in good and bad ways. Not all eating disorders result from familial constraints, nor can they all be solved by treating familial wounds. But they do play a role, and you can never truly understand eating disorders unless one comprehends the mental health impacts of their family.

With help from Shoreline Center for Eating Disorders, let’s explore every angle in which family can impact eating disorders and how methods like family or group therapy can play a role in recovery.

Family Genes

One of the biggest challenges in determining the likelihood of eating disorders is narrowing down just how big the role of genetics plays in their development. Family genes can be a large factor, indicating that an individual may be at a higher risk for eating disorders. Checking back into your family history for an aunt, uncle, cousin, or even parent who was diagnosed is one of the first steps one can take. Consider your relationship with body image or food, and try to exclude male and female biases within your family.

Beliefs, Norms, and Experiences

Families grow up with different thoughts and belief systems, depending on norms within their communities and even expectations placed on the child. Some family members emphasize perfection, limiting children’s comfort with approaching parents about trials and tribulations.

Other families suffer from adverse experiences like divorce, accidents, and surgeries that change the entire family-life dynamic and impact the children’s mental health. Additionally, some children raised with overstimulation can develop a sensitive temperament to certain foods.

Life at Home

How is life at home? Are there avenues for the children to speak about feelings and emotions? Do children ignore difficult conversations or feel like they’re walking on eggshells? Is there a lack of boundaries within the home that make children feel uncomfortable?

These questions and more can help a child and parents identify whether the at-home environment may increase one’s risk of eating disorder development. Life at home can be very difficult to navigate, especially for children with very demanding parents or households that don’t provide stability or comfort. Conflict avoidance can lead to other stress relief methods, such as high food consumption. Children who grow up with unreasonable expectations can also turn their focus to unrealistic standards for their body image.

The Sibling Dynamic

A good sibling relationship goes a long way, and many individuals have a positive relationship with their brother or sister. Studies have shown that the condition of their family members greatly impacts individuals of siblings with mental illnesses. As such, they, too, are at a greater risk of developing a serious mental illness.

There is empirical evidence that certain mental health disorders transmit symptoms to family members or others in proximity. While studies are few and far between, it’s recommended that parents keep a close eye on the behavioral patterns that brothers and sisters experience when one is dealing with traumatic or stressful situations.

The Dynamics of a Family Can Also Positively Impact Eating Disorders

Family dynamics have a few negative effects on eating behavior and the development of eating disorders, but those impacted aren’t confined to negativity. Family therapy for eating disorders can be one of the most effective ways to treat an eating disorder and deliver fantastic results. Repairing broken relationships and emphasizing growth for parents and children can help repair the wounds that lead to eating disorders. With quality family or group therapy, individuals can discover new ways to communicate and understand each other that may not have been present in the past.

Eating disorder treatments are best provided by treatment facilities like Shoreline, which specialize in various methods that get individuals and families the relief and help they deserve. Contact us at 562-434-6007 if you or a loved one need eating disorder treatment options like family therapy and so much more.





Subscribe to Our Monthly Newsletter

Get exclusive resources, find inspiration, and grow alongside us. Subscribe to our monthly newsletter now!