Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt from Chapter 7 of “The Human Magnet Syndrome: The Codependent Narcissist Trap (2018).”
Codependency anorexia occurs when a codependent surrenders to their lifelong relationship pattern with destructive pathological narcissists. The codependent often transitions to codependency anorexia when they hit bottom and can no longer bear the pain and harm 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.
Although their intention is to avoid getting pummeled again by the next narcissist, the codependent unknowingly insulates themselves from the very human experience of intimate romantic love. This defense mechanism serves to protect codependents from the cascade of consequences of their poor love choices. By denying their human need to connect and love passionately, in a sense they artificially neutralize the Human Magnet Syndrome. In other words, they remove themselves from any possibility of close romantic love, healthy or not.
To maintain their anorexia, codependents ultimately must divorce themselves from their emotional and sexual selves. As a result, they starve themselves from the very human need to connect romantically, intimately, and sexually. Such deprivation often leads to long-term mental and relational health problems.
In the anorexic state, codependents are hypervigilant about people or situations that could lead to a harmful and dangerous intimate relationship. In social situations, they often overcompensate to avoid showing interest in someone or accidentally reacting to someone’s overtures. To that end, they avoid everyday social events so as not to accidentally bump against a vulnerable or threatening situation or person. If anything does threaten the codependents anorexic barrier, anxiety will steer them back onto their self-depriving, but safe, course.
Anorexic codependents cannot recognize their disconnection from their vulnerable relational and sexual self is harmful, if not debilitating. At the end of the day, the goal they manage to achieve is avoiding being hurt by yet another pathological narcissist. However, they also live their life in a barren desert of loneliness and fear.
The children of anorexic codependents may be inappropriately relied on to compensate for the lack of intimate adult relationships. This damaging form of parent-child enmeshment is often referred to as emotional incest, which is harmful to a child’s psychological development.
WHAT TO DO?
So what is the codependent anorexic supposed to do? The moment of decision is best summarized in Anaïs Nin’s famous saying, “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” The following is a list of 10 must do’s if one is suffering from Codependency Anorexia.
- Get evaluated for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), as the mistreatment from pathological narcissists may have caused this disorder.
- Get into therapy with a practitioner who is experienced and successful in treating codependency, PTSD, and who understands the Human Magnet Syndrome.
- Actively participate in Codependency Anonymous (CODA.org).
- Stop or curtail any substance abuse, especially if it is self-medicating in nature.
- Start talking about your loneliness and fear of getting hurt with safe friends or family, therapists, and/or recovery group peers.
- Expand platonic relationships by subtly and progressively sharing more intimate or personal information about yourself.
- Participate in group activities that have no fix-up agenda.
- Practice being courageous and vulnerable: disclose to a safe friend that you have Codependency Anorexia.
- Practice or rehearse a conversation during which you disclose to a potential romantic interest that you are frightened of getting hurt and need to go very slowly in the relationship.
- DO NOT use Internet dating sites, even if you feel ready to do so.
Originally published on PsychCentral