Assertive Communication in Binge Eating Disorder Recovery

Lady working with therapist with Body Awareness Therapy

Regardless of who you are, lack of effective communication is an opening for trouble. This trouble is compounded for those in recovery from Binge Eating Disorder (BED), as the effective and assertive communication of thoughts, feelings, and boundaries is key to coordinating continued treatment, support, and needs.

Assertive Communication with Treatment Professionals

Developing the ability to communicate appropriately with your treatment team is a necessary part of taking ownership over one’s treatment and recovery. For many, the idea of asserting oneself to a doctor, therapist, psychiatrist, dietitian, etc., may feel uncomfortable.

After all, they are the experts, leading many to ask themselves, “what do I know that they don’t already know?” Yes, they are well-educated and experienced in their field, and respecting this is important.

However, recognize that a key area they are not experts in is you – your thoughts, feelings, and lived experiences. There is no hierarchy in the treatment team, and you are a valuable member.

Communicating with Family

There is no one cause of eating disorder development. However, certain family dynamics are proven to be related to the development and maintenance of eating disorder behaviors.

One study notes that interpersonal boundary problems, enmeshment within the family, and poor communication are associated with a higher risk for eating disorders [1]. These dynamics need to be identified, addressed, and worked on throughout one’s treatment.

This cannot happen if the disordered individual isn’t honest about how the family dynamics impact them and their disorder. Recognize that communicating troubled dynamics does not mean blaming anyone for your disorder.

Doing so is actually an investment in the future of your family as well as your future recovery. Do not be afraid to openly discuss family dynamics and relationships, explore what “support” looks like for all members, and communicate necessary boundaries for recovery.

Communicating with Friends

African American woman using Assertive Communication skills in a College support groupThe communication of thoughts, beliefs, feelings, and boundaries with friends is equally as important as it is with family. When you are not communicating these aspects assertively to friends, it is more likely to feel violated, misunderstood, and resentful.

The truth is, your friends cannot change triggering behaviors, provide support, and honor your boundaries if you are not communicating these to them. This can be difficult, as the truth is that not all of your relationships will survive your recovery journey. However, assertively expressing yourself to those in your support system will ensure that those that remain are those that value your recovery.

What is Assertive Communication?

A note about what assertive communication looks like. It is not raising one’s voice, being aggressive, or being inflexible. Assertive communication can mean remaining firm but open, speaking directly without yelling or becoming angry, and making eye contact without being threatening.

Assertive discussions involve communicating in a way that attempts progress and openness while holding your boundaries and values as a high priority. Recognize that you are the only person in this world that can effectively represent yourself. Develop the skill of effective and assertive communication not only for your recovery but for your relationships and your self-worth.


[1] Cerniglia, L. et al. (2017). Family profiles in eating disorders: family functioning and psychopathology. Psychology Research & Behavior Management, 10.

About the Author:

Image of Margot Rittenhouse.Margot Rittenhouse, MS, PLPC, NCC is a therapist who is passionate about providing mental health support to all in need and has worked with clients with substance abuse issues, eating disorders, domestic violence victims, and offenders, and severely mentally ill youth.

As a freelance writer for Eating Disorder Hope and Addiction Hope and a mentor with MentorConnect, Margot is a passionate eating disorder advocate, committed to de-stigmatizing these illnesses while showing support for those struggling through mentoring, writing, and volunteering. Margot has a Master’s of Science in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Johns Hopkins University.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective on eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published March 8, 2021, on
Reviewed & Approved on March 8, 2021, by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC

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