Bulimia, Anorexia, Binge Eating, Comfort eating, Compulsive Eating, Etc

Dissociative Identity Disorder & Eating Disorders

Grantley Morris

Help for eating disorders when you have dissociative identity disorder


After a very brief description of different types of eating disorders (one of which is seldom mentioned) we will discuss why they are so frequently associated with Dissociative Identity Disorder (D.I.D.). Drawing upon this information, we will then list practical ways of reducing the severity of eating disorders and, eventually, healing them.

Types of Eating Disorders

To my mind, there are at least four Eating Disorders, the first of which deserves more mention than it commonly receives.

    1.  Eating certain foods that for medical reasons, such as diabetes or a food allergy or food intolerance, you know your body cannot tolerate. In some cases, this might be a deliberate attempt at self-harm. However, due to such things as a delayed physical reaction, the connection between a certain food and an adverse reaction is not always obvious. Even without multiple personalities, it is therefore not uncommon for the body to crave foods that it cannot tolerate – just as an alcoholic or smoker can crave substances that harm the body. So this type of eating problem can sometimes be more like an addiction than deliberate self-harm.

    2.  Regularly choosing not to consume the calories that the body needs.

    3.  Regularly preventing the body from benefitting from the calories consumed, either through vomiting, over-exercising, or laxative, diuretic or enema misuse. All of these can lead to dehydration as well as malnourishment. Excessive vomiting can cause a wide range of additional health issues, including ruptured esophagus, damaged teeth (decay, enamel erosion), gum disease, scarring of the knuckles (if fingers are used to induce vomiting) and more. Laxative, diuretic or enema misuse have their own set of health implications, in addition to malnourishment. Excessive exercise can lead to such things as body injuries and heatstroke.

    4.  Binge Eating.

The Seriousness of Eating Disorders

Eating disorders of any sort are associated with wide-ranging and serious medical complications and can adversely affect virtually every organ in the body. The mortality rate for people with eating disorders is the highest of all psychiatric illnesses, and alarmingly higher than that for people without eating disorders.

Why Eating Disorders are so Common with D.I.D.

To have Dissociative Identity Disorder makes it almost inevitable that you will have had at least occasional bouts of an Eating Disorder.

Regardless of whether you can currently recall this aspect of your childhood, at the heart of Dissociative Identity Disorder is childhood trauma/abuse. Such suffering creates six possible routes to an eating disorder:

    1.  Reactions to past trauma typically produce on-going stress, such as fear and anxiety which, in turn, can lead to eating disorders.

    2.  Another common reaction to abuse is self-loathing, which can also lead to eating disorders. Eating disorders can sometimes be a form of self-harm.

    3.  A common form of child abuse is either severe food deprivation or force-feeding or, not uncommonly, a combination of both. This can be yet another route to an eating disorder. There might be, for example, a fear of being punished if one doesn’t eat everything in front of one, or feeling a strong need to eat everything one can find for fear that the next eating opportunity could be days or weeks away.

    4.  Some parts (or alters as they are sometimes called – short for alternate personalities) can have had repulsive, non-food items put into their mouths, causing them to refuse to open their mouths to allow anything (including food) to enter their mouths.

    5.  Childhood abuse, especially if sexual, can create body image issues, such as wanting to look physically undesirable (sexually unattractive) so as to avoid attention from the opposite sex. Anorexia might be seen by a woman as making her look less sexual, or obesity could be seen as making her look less desirable.

    6.  Being abused usually involves suffering things one has no control over. That can leave people desperate to try to always be in control of things. Strictly limiting their calorie intake can cause some such people to feel a strong degree of control, even though in reality they usually find themselves unable to break their habit.

One or more of the above is likely to have affected you at some time or another and, since you are reading this page, is probably still a problem. You can heal, however.

How D.I.D. Complicates Eating Disorders

Eating disorders can go either way – causing one to overindulge or to detest food – and which way this goes can depend on which alter is involved. A common feature of eating disorders with someone with Dissociative Identity Disorder is therefore having some parts who can eat normally, some who seriously under-eat, and some who overindulge.

These differences occur because, before they begin to heal, alters keep their memories, fears, feelings and so on largely sealed off from the rest of the person. At certain times in a person’s life these different reactions might balance each other, if alters with different coping methods regularly rotate or those alters most commonly present might have no Eating Disorder. Nevertheless, the ideal remains to eventually reach the point where no alter has a problem with food.

As implied by the above paragraph, it is common to have some parts who are highly motivated to do something and yet have one or more others who see no such need, or even want the very opposite. For example, someone might be in serious medical danger due to obesity and be eager have lose weight but have alters who mistakenly believe that lessening their calorie intake would literally starve them. Or someone might be determined to avoid certain foods she/he knows the body cannot tolerate but have certain alters who had no such medical condition as a child and are unaware that things have changed since then and so remain eager to eat those foods. This highlights one of many reasons why information-sharing among alters is so important. It is also a huge factor in people with D.I.D. finding it hard, and sometimes impossible, to break addictions until they help certain alters. This is explained a little more in a link at the end of this page.

A further complication is that people with Dissociative Identity Disorder often have one or more parts who have little awareness of their bodies. This is a rather clever technique they taught themselves in order to cope with physical pain associated with abuse. It has its downsides, however. One of the problems flowing from it is a lessened awareness of the damage their eating behavior is causing their bodies. They might, for example, experience stomach cramps through eating badly, but feel no pain, either because they are so disconnected from their body or because they regularly switch to another alter before the pain begins. Moreover, some alters often have little drive to live, and so, even if aware of the damage they are doing to themselves, such alters might have little concern about it.

Help for all Forms of Eating Disorder

I beg you to realize – and to keep telling yourself so that the message might eventually get through to other parts of you – that no matter how unpleasant things currently are, damaging one’s body through an eating disorder will only magnify one’s pain and problems. Malnourishment (whether through not eating or associated with such things as bulimia) can lead to brittle bones and many painful and distressing physical ailments and even a slow and agonizing death. Overeating, too, can lead to serious health concerns. Additionally, both can also result in hospitalization, which is usually highly triggering for people with Dissociative Identity Disorder. On the other hand, try to avoid scaring any part. Try to give enough information to motivate them to want to eat properly, but with reassurance that they will be fine if they do so and give an indication of how long they have to learn this skill before things get really critical.

Of course, not everyone with an Eating Disorder has Dissociative Identity Disorder. Nevertheless, we have seen many ways in which D.I.D. and Eating Disorders are interconnected. That means that, if anyone has both conditions, healing from Dissociative Identity Disorder is critically important for healing from an Eating Disorder.

Since healing from D.I.D. is complex and explained in detail in other webpages of mine, I will not attempt to repeat it all here. In this webpage there is only space for minimal information. Reading those other webpages, however, is most important.

You are likely to have had occasions when you have been relatively free from a particular Eating Disorder, and some other occasions when controlling that Eating Disorder has been beyond you. In most cases, this is because of changes in the degree of influence that particular alters have over you. At any given time, an alter can be in one of four different positions in your consciousness:

    1.  In control of your body. This might be thought of as being in the driver’s seat.

    2.  Like being in the passenger seat, the alter can see everything happening in the outside world but cannot control your body.

    3.  Unable to see what is currently happening in the outside world but able to communicate with the host and other key alters.

    4.  So deep inside that the alter is not only oblivious to what is happening in the outside world, but the host and other key alters cannot communicate with her/him.

The ideal is for alters to be in position 3, until they heal sufficiently for it to be safe and pleasant for them to be in the passenger or driver position. Ideally, until then, they should be allowed into the more aware positions only when those who have a keen awareness of the outside world know that they are alone, or at least in a situation where it is safe and not upsetting for sensitive alters to see what is currently happening in the outside world.

A significant incentive to help alters stay inside is to use your imagination to create in your mind a highly secure, cozy place deep inside where alters feel safe from the outside world. If need be, imagine high walls around the place to increase the feeling of security but fill the inside with fun things and beauty.

Being unable to dialogue with key alters is far from ideal. For healing to occur, communication is essential. As I’ve explained in more detail elsewhere, every alter needs healing, not only because it will then be so much better for that particular alter, but every healed alter makes an invaluable on-going contribution to the entire person’s well-being.

Having parts that sabotage one’s health and one’s body can be frustrating and even frightening, but please understand that even their most distressing behavior is because they are in deep inner pain, fear, confusion, feel hated by people, and/or have been cut off from vital information that you regard as basic, such as what year it is, that their eating habits are unhealthy, or that your abusers have ceased mistreating you.

Your parts are doing their best under appalling circumstances. They need special love, attention and reassurance from you and also to know that it is safe for them to draw close to Jesus. He will treat them in a way that will help them feel loved and special. These parts of you not only deserve your compassion and unconditional love, they will very positively respond to it. In fact, your healing hinges on you befriending them and sharing information with them, such as bringing them up to speed with current reality. Without this, they are locked into needless fear, appallingly low self-esteem, little or no desire to live, little or no awareness of the health implications of their actions, and so on.

We can sometimes mistakenly think we are being godly by being harsh with ourselves, or even hating ourselves, but our Lord respects and tenderly, unconditionally loves every part of us. As carefully explained from a biblical perspective in the Love One’s Alters? link at the end of this page, it is Christlike to have that same loving, patient, gentle attitude towards your every alter.

As mentioned earlier, one of the driving forces behind an eating disorder is sometimes the effect it has on making a person look less physically desirable and so making someone feel safer. This again shows the importance of helping each alter know if they are now safer then they realize. It is very common for alters to have been kept so out of the loop as to not realize that the abuse has stopped and the danger has passed, even though the host might know that it ended decades ago. It hardly takes a genius to realize the value in sharing such reassuring information with alters.

The alter most likely sees herself/himself as a child and therefore very vulnerable. (Some alters act tough and old but it is just fear-driven bluff.) Explain to the alter that she/he has been inside for very many more years than she/he realizes. This could be a shock to the alter and, if so, it will take the alter a while to believe it and adjust. Try to gently convince the alter that you are very capable and know how to keep her safe and that you would do anything to protect her/him.

Ask the alter her/his age. (Some might be unsure but they should be able to give you at least a vague idea.) Recall what it was like when you were that age and think of all the good things that have happened since, and all the things that make you safer than when you were that age. Then share all this news with the alter. These things will include that the alter now lives in a strong (relative to a child) adult body (make use of a mirror to help confirm this). Explain that you are not only an adult but very experienced at being one and that this gives you special authority and skills and a degree of believability that empowers you to stop people from hurting any part of you.

If the abuser is now dead, or is now old and frail, or now lives a long way from you, or you have not seen him for a long time (explain exactly how long), sharing this information will obviously give the alter significant relief.


If you are being pressured into hospitalization it is, of course, because people are rightly very concerned about your well-being. These people need to understand, however, that the cause is psychological and that, as important as hospitalization might be from a physical perspective, it is likely to worsen some of the causes of the problem. The confinement and being in a strange environment can trigger fears, flashbacks and all sorts of unpleasant things.

Try to explain this as best as you can to anyone suggesting hospitalization. Sadly, in some cases, hospitalization is necessary, but see if there is some program available that will work as an alternative, such as, for example, visiting a day clinic as often as they deem necessary. Some hospital outpatients departments have such a clinic.

Even if you want to try it entirely at home, it is important to be guided by a fully trained nutritionist and you might need regular blood tests.

Overcoming any Eating Disorder is daunting, and having Dissociative Identity Disorder as well as an Eating Disorder makes it even more challenging. So if you have both, not only do I not look down on you, nor do I merely have compassion for you; I am in awe of you. Not only are you not a failure, you are a complex person who has suffered horrifically – probably more than you currently recall – and for you still to be alive is a monumental testament to your inner strength, courage and resilience. Your battered self-esteem hides this truth from you and the ignorance of most people keeps them from seeing it too, but God sees you as more worthy of honor than you realize.

Help with Avoiding Overeating or Eating the Wrong Things

If this does not apply to you, feel free to skip to the Next Section.

The last thing I want is to in any way make you feel uncomfortable about your weight. I write simply because your physical well-being is important to me and if I happen to mention something that ends up being helpful to you, I’d be delighted.

Whether overeating be an attempt at seeking comfort or a form of self-harm, it will be beneficial to help your parts find healthier, less self-destructive ways of expressing (and hence releasing) their distress. The Self-Harm Alternatives link at the end of this page provides many helpful ideas.

Physically hiding or locking away all food, or at least those foods that are particularly open to abuse, might prove surprisingly beneficial. This also applies to access to money that might be used to buy inappropriate food or even to car keys that might allow you to travel to places of food temptation. At first thought this seems ridiculous because you know where the food and key is. Having Dissociative Identity Disorder, however, means you could well have certain alters who currently cannot access your memory in order to know where they are hidden.

Many people do not realize how peculiar feeling hungry is. We might expect that once we feel hungry, the feeling would keep intensifying until we eventually eat. For most people, it is nothing like that. If you do not eat after feeling hungry, the feeling will fade and might even disappear. The time that the feeling will return, and whether it will be as strong as before, is fairly unpredictable. Knowing that the discomfort associated with not eating will not keep building after initially feeling hungry makes it easier to resist the urge to eat.

Another surprising, little known fact is that some people who find dieting – eating less per meal – extremely demanding, can find fasting – consuming no food at all – much easier and almost completely painless. This can work well for some people but can be dangerous for some with health issues, such as diabetes or hypoglycemia. So you should consult a doctor before fasting. Unfortunately, some doctors don’t understand the benefits of fasting and can be needlessly against it but they should at least know from blood tests whether in your case there is a strong medical reason precluding it.

I had a time in my life when I would eat breakfast and then have lunch at noon. By about eleven in the morning I would begin to feel hungry and it would grow quite unpleasant until I had lunch. One day, I decided to fast. I had no breakfast, and ate nothing for three days. To my astonishment, for the entire three days I never once felt as hungry as I usually felt before lunch. Subsequent experience proved this is normal for me. I’m told that for many people there is a time after eating when their blood sugar dips below fasting level and then returns. This was probably the reason for feeling hungry before lunch.

Interestingly, the very act of writing about how hungry I used to feel before noon, made me feel hungry, and it was a time of day I do not normally feel hungry. This illustrates what a huge role one’s mind plays in all of this, and the fickleness of our sense of being hungry. I pressed on, refusing to eat until a couple of hours later when it is my usual time to eat. That is when I almost always feel hungry, and for good reason, as it is about fifteen hours since last eating. When that time arrived, however, I didn’t feel at all hungry– so much so that I decided not to eat.

People’s metabolisms vary considerably. By the end of the third day of fasting, I usually feel physically tired and weak and want to end the fast because of that, not because I feel hungry. Some people, however, feel weak much earlier, and later in their fast they begin to feel strong again.

People sometimes think fasting gives them a headache when it turns out that the headache is not from not eating but a product of caffeine withdrawal, due to choosing not to drink coffee while fasting.

Researchers asked people to fast a day and then on the next day eat whatever they liked, as often and as much as they wished, and then maintain the cycle of alternating between a day of fasting and a day of indulgence for a while. The researchers found that the overall calorie intake was less than before starting this regime, and the people significantly lost weight.

There are a variety of different eating regimes that might possibly work for you. For example, some fast for just two nonconsecutive days a week, eat normally the rest of the week, and find it very effective in weight loss.

Exercising has so many proven benefits beyond the obvious one of burning up calories. For example, some research has shown exercising to reduce depression as effectively as anti-depressants – and, of course, without adverse side-effects. Exercise increases one’s metabolic rate, so that even when resting, one is burning up more calories. And even if one remained as overweight, being overweight makes it even more important to counter some of the health risks by exercising.

I also suggest you do some research into gut health. This seems to be quite a factor in one’s overall weight.

Help When Finding it Hard to Eat

If this does not apply to you, feel free to skip to the Related Pages Section.

Although, from a purely psychological perspective, treating yourself might seem to have advantages, it can also have grave dangers, including permanent disability or death, for underweight people who increase their food intake. At the very least, it is important to seek medical advice and be guided by that as to how strict the medical supervision needs to be.

Eating might trigger flashbacks, vomiting or awful physical or emotional feelings. As is obvious in the case of flashbacks or body memories, this is usually because in one’s mind one is taken back to a past traumatic event and the effect can be so powerful that it temporarily seems as though you really are back there. Helping to remind yourself that you are not physically in the abuse situation, but are in a different time and place (often called grounding) can lessen the intensity. Related to this is reducing the points of similarity between the past traumatic event and the current attempt at eating. I will share some ideas that might help. It might stimulate some additional ideas of your own.

When you are about to eat, try to find a location that will make it very obvious that you are not back in time, nor in the location where you were once traumatized but that you are in the current year and in a safe, cozy place. Consider the physical appearance of the surroundings where you choose to eat. You might even choose outdoors, if that is very different to the original abuse environment. The presence of a calendar might help reinforce that this is not your childhood years, though it might be less effective for very young parts. A mirror might help remind you of your current age, or perhaps even reveal this for the first time ever to a part who is only beginning to catch up with current reality. The presence of some modern technology might also serve as a reminder that this is not in the past. If the original traumatic experience involved sitting at a table, you might prefer for there to be no table and to sit on a sofa or comfy chair or maybe even stand. You might even consider smell and sound (using, for example, music) to create surrounds that are relaxing and as different as possible from that in which you were traumatized.

Is there something about the way you physically get the food into your mouth that would be less like the abuse situation and so less triggering? Could, for example, certain cutlery be upsetting?

Since it is likely that someone was present when you were originally abused, it might be that the presence of people would be scary for some parts of you and that eating alone (or at least with them out of sight) is better. Just because you know and feel safe with whoever else is present does not mean that they are not scary strangers to the alter. The downside with going to a clinic is that it might be a rather cold, sterile environment and involve people who, although safe, parts of you might not feel comfortable with. This must be balanced, however, with seriously considering the medical risks of attempting this alone.

Even though any treatment regime from health professionals or concerned loved ones is likely to be putting pressure on you to eat, try hard not to feel pressured. To whatever extent you can, try to stay relaxed and happy and to find ways to see eating as a fun, pleasurable activity. Breathing exercises and physical relaxation exercises (such as deliberately relaxing every muscle group in your body) could help.

Especially when flashbacks seem likely, try to bring Jesus into the memory. Ask for his help in seeing the original event through his eyes. You will discover that he is so very tender and deeply compassionate towards you, and highly supportive. Additionally, keep reassuring yourself that you are now safe and that you have survived that awful time and that it will never be repeated.

Human sensitivities are such that even someone not having a current eating problem is likely to develop an aversion to food if subjected to nausea or upsetting food-related flashbacks while forcing herself/himself to eat. This, of course, applies equally to any alter who previously had no aversion to food. For yet another part of you to develop a problem with eating would magnify your overall eating problems. This presents a serious problem when there is a pressing medical need to eat.

As already explained, the ideal is for an alter who reacts adversely to eating to stay inside when you are approaching the time to eat. This will be much more pleasant for that alter and for the rest of the person, and it will make it more likely that your body will be able to benefit from nutrients it desperately needs. In practice, it might be difficult to get the alter to stay inside. For example, as soon as such an alter becomes aware that eating might occur, he or she might panic and think it is necessary to stay out in order to fight eating.

The mix of alters who are conscious of what is happening (including, of course, knowing whether you are about to eat) tends to vary somewhat randomly throughout the day and night. You might not be able to predict much in advance as to when that time will be, but as soon as you sense that such a moment has arrived I suggest you seize the opportunity to eat as soon as you can, provided, of course, it is medically advisable to do so. Eating at regular times might be ideal, but what is more important is consuming needed nutrients, when possible without an alter’s flashbacks, or whatever, turning part of you even more off food. To facilitate this, it is good to have nutritious food readily available. Even the time taken to cook might be all it takes for the alter to come out whom you had been hoping would stay inside.

Remember, however, the warning already given about the need for medical advice as to the type, quantity and frequency of food intake. Having Dissociative Identity Disorder makes this particularly challenging. Although you might be well aware of the guidelines, an alter might suddenly take over who has no such knowledge.

The obvious question is how can one help an alter go deep inside at the appropriate time, such as when you are going to eat? Most likely, the alter comes out when he or she senses you are about to eat because the alter feels the need to protect himself/herself from the perceived threat. As already explained, things will improve the more you befriend the alter and gently convince her/him that you can better handle the situation than the alter.

If eating disorders seriously threaten health, and one is forced to choose between the two, it is important to give priority to eating, rather than to long term healing of the cause of the problem. Obviously, long term healing is the ideal we should work towards but for that to happen, a person needs to remain alive! Once one’s health is stabilized, one can then slowly tackle issues related to long-term healing.

For example, a friend of mine has learned that, rather than dissociate, healing is facilitated by connecting with an alter and feeling her pain. It breaks down barriers between the part most often in charge (sometimes called the host) and alters who are hurting. This allows the hurting parts to connect with the positive things the host has to offer. My friend felt guilty about not wanting to do this with the part who, when faced with food, suffers adverse feelings and flashbacks. I urged her not to feel guilty about this, nor to push herself to the point where it endangers her health. She will eventually benefit from connecting with this alter, but stabilizing her health is more important. If, however, she is able to connect with her alter while timing her contacts with her so that they do not correspond to when it is necessary to eat, that is ideal.

To try to calm the alter, my friend encouraged her to draw when she was at the eating disorder clinic. This is good, if the alter cannot be coaxed to go inside at such times, but I urged her to give this alter other opportunities to draw so that drawing at the clinic did not inadvertently act as a further incentive for this alter to be in the fore during times involving eating.

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Related Pages

These first two links take to you to information about an unusual but effective way that one woman with D.I.D. was able to find healing from her eating disorder. (An alter of hers, through always having had to assume responsibility, had never had a chance to face and heal from her own issues. (This is often the case for a host.) She found healing from food problems by reverting to a younger age for a while.) It also contains information that could be of value in helping alters who already see themselves as young.

Other Help

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Dissociative Identity Disorder & Anorexia Nervosa, Comfort Eating, Binge Eating, Bulimia Nervosa, Over-Exercising, Purging