Eating Disorders Editor's Picks

Setting Boundaries with Friends from Recovery Treatment

Setting Boundaries with Friends from Recovery Treatment | Libero Magazine 2
Forming friendships with people from recovery or treatment is comforting and uplifting. However, it can be detrimental to your recovery if you don’t set boundaries.

Before you start reading...

Please Support our Nonprofit Magazine!

There has never been a time when our community and content was needed more. As a nonprofit online community and magazine, we provide FREE articles, videos, and other content that is available worldwide, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Due to the global pandemic, we’ve had to put events, collaborations and business sponsorships on hold, leaving us to rely exclusively on online donations from our community (aka YOU!) We want to be here to support you all through this pandemic and beyond, which is why we are asking you to consider donating whatever you are able. A single (or monthly) donation of just $5 will make a difference and will help keep our nonprofit running so we can continue supporting you and others.
Select Payment Method
Personal Info

Credit Card Info
This is a secure SSL encrypted payment.

Donation Total: $5 One Time

Building Friendships in Recovery

The people you meet in treatment are some of the most influential people you will ever meet. Forming friendships with people who understand how it feels to have a mental illness is comforting and uplifting. This is especially true when even the people who love you the most cannot fathom what you’re going through.

However, it can be detrimental to your recovery if you don’t set boundaries. I have met some of my closest friends because we had common struggles; I have also met people who have precipitated relapses.

If mental illness is the only thing you have in common with someone, it is most likely unwise to pursue a friendship. I say most likely because in some cases it could work out if the connection is more about recovery than sickness. However, if you only connect with someone over mutual pain, your friendship will fall apart as soon as one person makes strides towards health.

Worst of all, you could find yourself neglecting to make progress in your recovery because you are afraid of losing your friend. I do not want to discount how helpful it is to have people to validate your pain, but you can receive this validation in a support group: a safe, controlled environment.

All treatment relationships are valuable, but only certain relationships are meant to leave the walls of recovery centers.

Are you enjoying this article? We are a nonprofit and rely on donations to run our magazine and community. If you are enjoying this article, would you consider making a $2 donation?

Give $2 towards this Article


Custom Amount

Select Payment Method
Personal Info

Credit Card Info
This is a secure SSL encrypted payment.

Donation Total: $2 One Time

When I met my best friend K I knew we were destined to be friends, because we had so much in common other than being in recovery from eating disorders. We had similar values and personalities, so we stayed connected regardless of our health status. Together we discovered that our eating disorders didn’t have to be our identities anymore.

Today we barely discuss eating disorders, because we have helped one another to move on.

Something else to consider is your friend’s approach to recovery.

Is your friend truly trying to get better, or are they remaining stagnant in their illness? If they are not even trying to recover, that is a major red light. I had a friend who was so trapped in her eating disorder that she viewed engaging in ED behaviours as a social activity. Our friendship started out with what appeared to be innocent, yet incessant, discussion of our eating disorders, and I was comforted by the knowledge that I wasn’t alone. Unfortunately, as these types of friendships often do, commiserating progressed to much worse.

On the other hand, if K and I discuss our eating disorders, it is from a pro-recovery lens. Together we have gone to inspirational recovery talks and recovery book signings, and we have fundraised for NEDA (National Eating Disorders Association). Even when eating disorders were more present in our friendship because we were still in the early stages of recovery, it was never coming from a disordered place.

If you decide to spend time outside of treatment with someone who has a similar mental health struggle with you, it can be a good idea to create ground rules so you both feel safe.

Here are some of the ground rules I set with my friends who are in recovery from eating disorders:

1. No discussion of numbers: weights, sizes, miles run, etc.

I have known K for four years now, and we have never once referenced specific numbers when turning to one another for support.

2. No using self-destructive behaviours in the presence of each other, and no encouraging each other to use behaviours.

Even when I was relapsing, I didn’t let myself use behaviours around K, because I didn’t want my struggles to hurt her recovery.

If you feel triggered by your friend, speak up. And if your friend is triggered by something you are saying, change the subject and reach out to someone that has the emotional capacity to both support you and take care of themselves.

3. If one of us is relapsing and it becomes triggering to the other person, it is okay for the other person to request some space.

It doesn’t mean the friendship isn’t unconditional: it simply means that we are willing to do whatever it takes to keep ourselves, and each other, healthy.

Of course, no friendships are perfect and once in a while my friends and I say things we wish we hadn’t or feel triggered by a comment.

As long as we are able to keep an open communication, we can work through it and move forward as friends who both want the same thing: health and happiness.

If you found this article helpful, please donate $2 to our magazine (we’re a nonprofit!)

Share this post:

Check out this video on handling triggering friends: 



Support our nonprofit by shopping from our NEW Giving Shop!

Click Here to visit the shop!

Jessica has a B.A. in Psychology and Women's Studies and is pursuing a graduate degree in Clinical Psychology. She is passionate about social justice and hopes to make a difference in the lives of others and advocate for social change. Having recovered from an eating disorder, Jessica is committed to spreading the word that freedom from eating disorders is possible. Through her writing at Libero, Jessica hopes to empower those struggling with eating disorders to fight for the health and happiness that they deserve.


Become a patron!

Become a Monthly Patron

3 of 20 donors
$ 5

You have chosen to donate $5 monthly.

Select Payment Method
Personal Info

Credit Card Info
This is a secure SSL encrypted payment.

Donation Total: $5 Monthly

Support our work through our NEW Giving Shop!

libero mental health nonprofit giving shop preview

Do you blog about mental health?

Follow us on Instagram!

Instagram has returned empty data. Please authorize your Instagram account in the plugin settings .
Micaela: Free from Shame | Libero Magazine 1 Send us your story! [click here] or post your “Free from___” photo on Instagram and tag us: @liberomagazine!


The opinions and information shared in this article or any other Content on our site may not represent that of Libero Network Society. We hold no liability for any harm that may incur from reading content on our site. Please always consult your own medical professionals before making any changes to your medication, activities, or recovery process. Libero does not provide emergency support. If you are in crisis, please call 1-800-784-2433 or another helpline or 911.