Professionals and bloggers on relationships sites have recently coined a new term when it comes to unhealthy romances: Codependency Anorexia. Now this has nothing to do with an eating disorder per se, but it does relate to those who “starve themselves of love” and give in to a narcissistic partner.
As presented in the popular new book The Codependent Narcissist Trap by Ross Rosenberg, this type of emotional anorexia can severely impact a person’s ability to maintain healthy relationships…even if they decide to leave a codependent partner.
“Codependency anorexia occurs when a codependent surrenders to their lifelong relationship pattern with destructive pathological narcissists,” Rosenberg writes. “The codependent often transitions to this when they hit bottom and can no longer bear the pain meted out by their narcissist. Paradoxically, as it occurs during a moment of clarity, the codependent comes to realize they are powerless over their attraction to lovers who feel right in the beginning, but shortly thereafter hurt them. To protect themselves from the long line of soulmates who unexpectedly become cellmates, the codependent flips their vulnerability switch to off. This results in a complete shutdown of all emotional, relational, and sexual machinery.”
The passage goes on to describe how this type of behavior can create serious damage, both emotionally and sexually. Starving yourself of intimacy (and a primal human condition) can easily escalate into other issues, such as depression and addiction. It can also create isolation, as the sufferer may become so afraid of being hurt again that they withdraw from family and friends.
There is also serious concern if a person dealing with codependency anorexia is a parent. Limiting yourself from affection and trust can be extremely damaging to a child. Another side effect, per Rosenberg, concerns a mom or dad who begins looking to their children for emotional compensation. In this scenario, young offspring are exposed to adult issues and “enmeshment,” which has shown to be harmful for psychological development.
The site Psych Central did a nice job outlining next steps if you or someone you care about is experiencing this. They equate codependency anorexia to having similarities to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (aka PTSD) and believe it should be treated as such. They also recommend forcing yourself to participate in more group activities, staying away from online dating sites and reaching out therapists and treatment centers for support.