Long Term Eating Disorders

Parents need to take care of themselves so they can care for their loved ones suffering with an eating disorder.

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 experiencing an eating disorder for many years

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

While early detection and early 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 an 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 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?

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 (Australian Carers Only)

EDFA is a proud not-for-profit, predominantly 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.

Membership gives access to:

A range of resources in our Member Only section of the website including Educational Recordings, Member Recommended Clinicians and Services, and more.

Over 70 support groups and education sessions per year. including:

Twice monthly education sessions

strive Carer Support Groups for carers of loved ones with any type of eating disorder (run three times each month)

strive ARFID Carer Support Group (run monthly)

strive bulimia nervosa Carer Support Group (run quarterly)

strive binge eating disorder Carer Support Group (run quarterly) 

strive4Men Carer Support Group (run quarterly) – a group for male carers 

siblings Support Group (run monthly) – a group for siblings of those with an eating disorder

daily online support through our private strive Australia Facebook Group and the opportunity to connect, share, learn and ask questions is another benefit of being part of our EDFA community.

discounts to eating disorder events and conferences

Your membership helps EDFA with ongoing costs of running a not-for-profit organisation, and importantly, shows Government that families value, need and believe in this type of lived experience support. Strength in numbers helps EDFA lobby as the collective voice of carers for  better services, treatments, access to expert clinicians and specialised eating disorder units, to help our loved ones in their recovery journey and to acknowledge the impact of an eating disorder diagnosis on the entire family unit.

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