"Typical parents" of bulimics?

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shining's picture
"Typical parents" of bulimics?

I know, it sounds a bit insane, but I just can't get it out of my head. I read an article, in fact several articles, a few weeks ago about bulimia, that suggested that bulimia was a psychological problem - which I know is not exactly the case - , but the part that stuck in my mind is about typical parents whose daughters(?!) are likely to become bulimic. So it said these girls usually have an emotionally distant father and an (over-)controlling mother. As you might have guessed, it applies for me, that's why it is bugging me. Now, I know that many people with parents like these do not become bulimics, and that probably a lot of bulimics come from families very different from the described above, but I am just curious to know whether some or any of you have a somewhat similar background?

susan2012's picture
i was wondering the same

i was wondering the same thing myself a couple of days ago

i can totally relate

i would add hyper critical, generally the mother.

katzcurrent's picture
My parents didn't fit that

My parents didn't fit that all. My dad was controlling in a sort of insecure, needy way, and my mom was distant. I've known dozens of bulimics, and I haven't noticed a trend with parents. If I had to point to 1 commonality though, it would be that they come from families with diminished ability to process conflict in a healthy way. Then again, that is probably the case for 60% (?) of families.

Maria_'s picture
Hmm..not quite sure if I fit

Hmm..not quite sure if I fit in this..I grew up without a father (or father figure), and my mother has been a wonderful hardworking single mom.
I know it's often said that eating disorders are caused by the parents, but research has show that really doesn't have to be the case. Unfortunately,it's a large part genetics..(so yes, you get your genes from your parents, but I highly doubt they're to blame in this case). Some researchers even say that society and all it's pressure on being thin, doesn't have to be a large cause.

I personally think that eating disorders can develop due to a number of things..and some people are just genetically predispositioned to have them.

snowflake's picture
I had an emotionally distant

I had an emotionally distant AND over-controlling Father, and then I emotionally distanced myself from my mother. She considered me more of a friend than a daughter, and I needed her to be a mother, not a friend, and our relationship has been strained on and off. My father and I never speak anymore, and my mother and I aren't very close (trying to change that).

I think there may be a correlation, but like with everything, it's not a 100% "If your parents were this way, you will be this way."

I personally fit a lot of the statistics for "at risk for developing and E.D." criteria, but I'm still an individual, and it didn't have to happen just because I had the risk factors.

"Choose the Good"

Lotah's picture
Wow. That describes my

Wow. That describes my parents exactly. Emotionally distant father and over-controlling, hypercritical mother. I have had to distance myself from her in order to make recovery work for me. Any chance you could let me have the link to the article(s)?

Facethesun's picture
I'm really glad you brought

I'm really glad you brought this up! I am just working my way through a book called Healing your Emotional Self, which is a book about parental emotional abuse and neglect. The author talks about the 7 types of emotionally abusive or neglectful parents. It is stated in the book that those who were emotionally abused or neglected as children tend to suffer from eating disorders, and that many over eat as a way of soothing themselves, or out of self-loathing as an effect if the emotional abuse/neglect.

Interestingly enough, I have confirmed that I grew up with 6 out of the 7 types.... This bulimia issue of mine seems to come from a much deeper place than I had originally thought. It makes a lot more sense to me now, and I am only about 1/3 of the way into the book, and it has been a revelation for me to this point, and I look forward to working my way through the rest of it. It will take a lot of time and patience with myself to really grasp it, but I am convinced it is going to help me beat bulimia, and many other issues in addition.

Turn you face to the sun, and let the darkness fall behind.

Anna_'s picture
I would also be really

I would also be really interested in articles about this! I too have an emotionally distant father.. Never thought of it that way but it makes sense. He is doing really well in his work life and sets such high standards for his children that we can never really live up to - and I always end up feeling like im not good enough. We also avoid dealing with conflict. Or I wouldnt know how to deal with conflict in a 'healthy' way. Hmm Ill definitely need to look up the book 'Healing your emotional self'. Thanks for the tip!

snowflake's picture
Thanks for the book

Thanks for the book suggestion! Yes, I was emotionally abused as a child which is why I think a therapist is vital to my conplete recovery. I have a lot of things to work out aside from food, but I've used Bulimia as a distraction from dealing with it all completely. My goal is to make my food issues my focus right now, then deal with the other part, and hopefully I end up whole! I'm definitely going to look that up. Glad it's helping you!

"Choose the Good"

shining's picture
The articles I mentioned were

The articles I mentioned were in Russian, so if you're still interested I can find them and post links. :)

Thank you for the responses, it's nice to see that I am not the only one wondering about this. I think it's important to find these childhood traumas and then work on them to be eventually able to let go. Also it is sometimes very tempting to want to distance myself from my parents, but they are very loving and not hurting me intentionally, so I really want to make our relationship better, at the moment the biggest challenge for me is making them speak openly about things. They are very reserved, and I guess, traumatized people too, so it is not very easy, but I know it is all worth the effort - besides right now they are my biggest triggers. So maybe this illness is just life's way of telling me I need to work on these problems and make the most of these (and other) very precious relationships.

RubyPearl's picture
Hi, This is interesting


This is interesting although I don't exactly fit the bill as my father was distant but my mother not attentive enough. In my opinion the problem as the e-book suggests is my restriction of food which might have started as a means to deal with some emotional distress but then surely added to it and made it seem even worse as a result of the malnutrition effects to the brain.

I have 3 daughters one of which is very young only 7 years old but I see how she reacts when ever she's upset about anything, she either feels like she has a tummy ache and so doesn't want to eat or she would just say that she's not hungry because she knows that as a mother I would like her to eat properly and she knows that might draw my attention further to her issue. She's too young to have a food disorder but if I'm not careful accidentally when she's older she might because today she only restricts her food within a meal but tomorrow when she's older she might do it for a couple of days and that might trigger the whole process.

My point being I don't believe I'm a controlling mother and her father is a very present and supporting father but because of my experience I can recognise the signs of a child who deals with discomfort by eating less or more.


katzcurrent's picture
In a couple places, I read

In a couple places, I read that anorexics tended to come from controlling, intrusive parents and bulimics tended to come from chaotic, inconsistent families. By those criteria, I definitely fit the bulimic 'model'. And my older sister was bulimic, too.

Do any others of you have siblings with bulimia?

leo245's picture
I would say I had strong

I would say I had strong parental support from two wonderful people, yet I struggled a lot with my sister. She was adopted and we are the two most opposite people you could get. She blamed me for all her failures in life and had horrible anger issues. When my parents were gone in high school she used to take it out on me. I don't know if this means I had a chaotic family life, it is possible thought. My sister has fought depression and anxiety but never any eating disorders. These are very interesting theories though!

LessThanZero's picture
Mine was nothing like that at

Mine was nothing like that at all - A mother who basically gave me free-reign and a father who adored me and made sure I alwasy knew it. So yeah, dunno, not sure there's a "typical" parent ..

Luni's picture
I can totally relate with the

I can totally relate with the Father description but not so much the mother... although she has mentioned repeated times in my life that I have never been skinny or thin enough as my older sister .... always compared to her that is for sure though! I also believe that what katzcurrent mentions about "families with diminished ability to process conflict in a healthy way" totally applies for me. Plus, the amount of abuse we experience throughout life .... specially sexual abuse, just makes you want to die by sticking your face in the toilet!


Luni's picture
I can totally relate with the

I can totally relate with the Father description but not so much the mother... although she has mentioned repeated times in my life that I have never been skinny or thin enough as my older sister .... always compared to her that is for sure though! I also believe that what katzcurrent mentions about "families with diminished ability to process conflict in a healthy way" totally applies for me. Plus, the amount of abuse we experience throughout life .... specially sexual abuse, just makes you want to die by sticking your face in the toilet!


Vegan Goddess
Vegan Goddess's picture
Wow. Am I the only ones

Wow. Am I the only ones who's parents were perfect? I mean, they weren't perfect people because no one is perfect. But they were perfect parents, if you know what I mean? My family is eccentric, but loveable. My childhood was a fantasy. All the trauma in my life has been self-inflicted.

Bebop's picture
My parents definately fit

My parents definately fit into those categories. Emotionally and physically distant father (parents divorced and dad lived 3 hours away), controlling, invasive, hyper-critical mother. I agree with Vegan Goddess, however, as when I reflect on my past I had a very loving family.

Music_is_Life's picture
For me, it's actually my

For me, it's actually my mother who is distant and uninterested in anything I do. If I ask her opinion, she criticizes 90% of the time. She is preoccupied with her hobbies and not interested in spending time with me or my siblings. My dad, on the other hand, is constantly hovering over me and giving nothing but praise to the point where it becomes meaningless.
Both my parents have high expectations. My dad wants me to get a PhD and my mom expects me to become a concert pianist, but I want neither. I only want a life of peace and solitude and no stress and no binging.

DrugsyMalone's picture
Yep, this sounds like my

Yep, this sounds like my family. My Dad is borderline ASD so has always been very emotionally restricted as well as incredibly strict because he can't understand other people's point of view (he's been getting better at this gradually with therapy), and my Mum is super skilled at guilt tripping, criticising everyone around her in a kind of passive aggressive way that makes it seem like she's doing it for their own good and she's overprotective.
I agree that this is not necessarily a causal factor in bulimia, but more of a contributing stress or risk factor which is why it is quite common for a lot of us.

"If people sat outside and looked at the stars each night, I bet they'd live a lot differently." ~Bill Watterson

Delilia's picture
My family was very chaotic.

My family was very chaotic. Both of them distant in a way and too protective on the other hand.
My therapy lasted for 3 years. I understood a lot of things about my family that I was not aware of...
Yes, like Catzcurrent said : they had a diminished ability to process conflict in a healthy way. We were like a TRIANGLE, and I was the one who was playing the role of the MEDIATOR, and also the role of the mother for my own mother, who suffers from depression for many years.

We ARE born like a WHITE PAPER. I don't believe we become bulimics by ourselves. We do with ourselves what our families teach us. And most of the time these people ( our parents ) are quite childish in a way ( with lots of fear, depression and criticism ).

Before my therapy I was in the Triangle so I thought my role was to HELP them, because they can't find happiness.
Once I got out the triangle ( psychologically ) I see my parent's behaviour differently.

I definitely advise a therapy :) It saved my life.

Janet Da Silva
Janet Da Silva's picture
I know you wrote this a while

I know you wrote this a while ago but I just read it and had to comment. You just described my parents perfectly. Maybe there is something to this theory.....

Janet Da Silva
Toronto, Canada

aimee's picture
I don't know whether there is

I don't know whether there is a real link or it is just that there are a lot of emotionally distant men and controlling women out there! Doesn't fit for me. My mother is absolutely supportive and not at all controlling. I didn't develop an eating disorder until I went to college, where I encountered a lot of skinny, weight-obsessed girls. An interesting topic to ponder, though, for sure.


lindsay6's picture
I definitely had a a

I definitely had a a controlling over involved Mother. I had to do a lot of work with a therapist to deal with my relationship with her while I was growing up. As an aside I worked with a nurse who worked in an eating disorder clinic and one of the things she said is anorexic children often have parents who involve them in their problems. For example a mother confiding in her daughter about her marital and or financial problems. This person thought this put a large burden on the child who couldn't handle it. I am really not anorexic, I am full on bulimic. This definitely does not describe my mother.

When you are going through hell, keep going.

shirley_z's picture
Mine is exactly like what you

Mine is exactly like what you have found: an emotionally distant father and an (over-)controlling mother. .
Family issues trigger me a lot.

Love myself.

donutseeds's picture
My dad has always been very

My dad has always been very distant (I am bulimic), and probably would have been super happy not to have kids at all. He's much better now that I am an adult. My mother was always great, but they divorced when I was 8, and I lived with my dad and crazy step mom.

AnMu's picture
I totaly relate. That

I totaly relate. That describes my parents exactly. Emotionally distant father and most of the time not present and an over-controlling, hypercritical mother.

When I was a child my mom used to cook alot and to eat alot. Huge quantities.
Also my mom used to binge on food( and she is still doing this) to cope with the bad feelings that my father was never there, she had to handle alone with 2 children. In the meantime my father died.
When I was a child, she always took me with her, in her food expeditions. I learnt from her bad habits like eating on the street, stopping to each and every bakery to buy sth to eat. Learning from her, when I feel bored to eat.

I got very fat for my age. At 13 I had 75.
And then went to highschool, when I felt ashamed by my body. And I started dieting. In 2 years with dieting and then binging on food I managed to gain other more 9 kg.
And the I discovered the magic technique. To purge everything I eat.

I hated my mother from all my heart for what she did to me when I was a child. Because she didnt learn to have a healthy life.

I stopped to put the blame on her for my bulimia. I am an adult and I am now totaly responsible for my health and body.

But I have had to distance myself from her.
She knows about it but was totally unsuportive. Even now she is one of my major trigger factors.

Luckily we live now half of this world distance by each other.

When I think at my mom, I associate her image with food, a lot of food and a huge belly which is my worst nightmare.
I would rather die than to be as fat as she is.


granny goat
granny goat's picture
That's a pretty close

That's a pretty close description of my parents, but the way my parents really contributed to my bulimia was by calling me names like "fatty" and "fat ass." Fact is, I look at my photos at the time they started calling me that (puberty), and I was not even close to being fat, perfectly normal.

Both of my parents and my brother and sister are of the "ectomorph" body type, while I am of the "mesomorph" type.


I did gymnastics and field hockey when I was in high school. My sister was on the drill team

To them, I looked fat because they were taller and so thin and had such long limbs, whereas I was short and muscular. My thighs and arms were larger than theirs but not fat. They had no rear ends. I had a nice round one.

Their name-calling gave me a "fat complex" and drove me to start dieting at age 15, and I dieted some till I graduated from high scool. After I left home at age 17, I was too busy to think about dieting. I weighed 105 pounds when I got married at age 21. The binging started soon after I got married (when Pop Tarts came out) and the purging not long after.

But I don't think any of it would have happened if they had not labeled me as fat. I don't think anyone else would ever have said that about me.

Angel333's picture
My Father was overly strict

My Father was overly strict and I hated him as a child - our relationship couldn't be better now though, he did what he thought best to protect me and keep me save
My Mother was just that...a mother, we are nor overly close or distant. The only thing I can think of is she used to diet and yo-yo diet at that, all the time. Still does to this day, she is always on one diet or another, then loses it, then gains it all back...I sometimes wonder if she ever had an eating disorder?!
But no offense to anyone, no matter the childhood you were brought up in, you cant blame anyone but yourself for where you are today. You chose Bulimia! you could have chose drugs, alcohol, religion etc or the exact same reason you are trying to place blame on everyone else for your disorder.
I think we all need to take accountability for where we are today, stop blaming other people and influences and accept and admit that the life we are living is through our own doing. No one is forcing you and making you focus on this eating disorder. You are in control, only you can take control, and only you have the power to commit and conquer recovery.
The sooner we accept responsibility, the sooner we will recover.
Good luck to you all

'We are each of us angels with only one wing, so we can only fly by embracing each other'

HeyJupiter's picture
That definitely sounds like

That definitely sounds like my parents too. I was LDS (Mormon) and grew up with a sense that boys are preferred to girls.
I would list the reasons why here, but the list is so big and absurd that it just makes me depressed and hurts too much.
I just started in recovery and a few people who know me have written letters to my Mom standing up for me all on there own accord. So in a sense they have become my new family.
Just before my Father passed away he had actually talked with me and said he was very sorry and asked me to forgive him. Of course I did.
I found out later from my Uncle that some of the reasons why my Father was distant was he would beat up on himself after he got after us kids, and suffered from depression badly.
I never even guessed it. He was never on depression meds and you wouldn't have ever guessed when he was around.
My Mom is a holier-thou type. And my younger sister.
But maybe there is a bit of truth in that. Although I have known people who had no problems with parents who became bulimic.

"Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. But today is a gift, that is why it is called the Present."
"I never said it would be easy; I only said it would be worth it."

spilut's picture
It's interesting to read all

It's interesting to read all this! My mother is bulimic (though diagnosed by me haha!) - she dieted all through my childhood, and yet would binge in between. She would fast too for 2-3 days at a time. She was preoccupied with my weight from puberty onwards, and would force me to stand on the scales. For years I would bath in the middle of the night to avoid her looking at me and passing judgement. My dad I believe suffered from depression - he used illegal drugs to alleviate this!

But as others have said I am now a grown woman and take responsibility for my own behaviour, and I have to before I pass this on again! We are all the victim of a victim at the end of the day! (and with some interesting tales to tell!)

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