Long Term Eating Disorders

How to deal with a long term eating disorder

Although some people recover quite quickly from an eating disorder, many experience long term eating disorders – with some suffering for years. 

If a patient has an eating disorder for more than five years, it’s classified as severe and enduring.

While early detection and assertive intervention are recommended for the best outcome for patients, treatment is recommended and recovery is possible at any stage.

Frustration and Isolation

For sufferers and their families, long term eating disorders can be incredibly challenging. Families can feel frustrated, sad and angry, and often become isolated from the wider community. 

And because long term eating disorders have some of the highest mortality rates for mental illness, families can also feel frightened and hopeless the longer the disorder goes on.


If you’re caring for someone with a long term eating disorder, it’s important to make sure you have appropriate medical support. Many families negotiate regular appointments with a GP to check on health issues.

Severe and enduring long term eating disorders

In recent years, eating disorder psychology has recognised a sub-group of eating disorders known as Severe and Enduring Eating Disorders (SEED).

While there are no diagnostic criteria or agreed upon definition, generally these patients can be classified as: 

(1) being consistently ill for 10 or more years

(2) having experienced at least one recognised therapeutic treatment

(3) displaying severe impairment across a number of life domains

(4) demonstrating low motivation for recovery (Strober, Freeman, & Morrell, 1997).

Eating Disorder specialist giving support to teenager with eating disorder

From the study of this SEED group, we have also learned that there is significant evidence that after 10 years, eating disorders can become considerably more difficult to recover from and treat.

When treating this gravely ill population, several poignant questions immediately arise:

  • How do we treat these patients?
  • Do we aim for recovery?
  • Is it even possible?
  • Are their medical complications different due to longevity of illness?

Learn More

Looking for an eating disorder clinician? A great place to look is the Australia and New Zealand Academy for Eating Disorders (ANZAED) which has a search tool for finding a clinician local to you.

Take the Feed Your Instinct early identification eating disorder test here.

Become a member of EDFA for $25 per year

EDFA is a proud not for profit, volunteer run organisation. 

We invite you to be part of a revolutionary peer support group making positive changes in the Eating Disorder space. Strength in numbers means we are able to affect change and have the collective voice of the carers recognised.

We provide opportunities to connect with other parents and carers who share your experiences… helping you to feel less alone and isolated.

Yearly membership is just $25.

Members will receive a welcome pack, including information sheets, introductory discounts on selected Eating Disorder books, discounts to Eating Disorder conferences and events, free access to monthly statewide strive support groups, bi-monthly national education sessions and daily online peer support through the private strive FB groups.

Become a Member

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