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Bella Hadid, Gigi Hadid, and how Narcissistic Mothers can cause Eating Disorders

So, if you’re here, I am sure you have already seen the video clips of Yolanda Hadids questionable parenting practices surrounding food and her children, whilst filming the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills in the 2010’s, with many claiming her actions are neglectful and narcissistic.

What is a Narcissist?

But before we jump in, let’s take a moment to unpack what narcissistic mothering actually looks like. Narcissistic Personality Disorder, or NPD, is classified in the DSM 5 as;

Comprising a pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behaviour), a constant need for admiration, and a lack of empathy.”

In my own practice, patients and clients who have experienced narcissistic parenting have in turn, experienced emotional neglect, as appropriate focus and nurture is not extended to them as vulnerable children and teenagers when the parent has such an extreme focus on themselves.

Traits I see specifically in narcissistic mothers are; controlling, emotionally minimising and manipulative, practising conditional love, an overwhelming focus on appearances, emotional volatility, and unpredictability. Unconditional love and empathy? They're rarely in the picture.

But how is this linked to Eating Disorders?

When we experience a childhood of emotional abuse or neglect at the hands of a Narcissistic mother, not only can we understandably develop very negative core beliefs about ourselves, but we also need to find a way of emotionally dealing with the abuse or neglect that we’re experiencing. That's where an Eating Disorder can step in!

Eating Disorders are quite literally just coping modes! They are well-meaning but unhelpful superheroes who attempt to swoop in and save the day, but who always end up problematic and harmful. Some Eating Disorders help us find seudo-control in chaotic situations like Anorexia and Orthorexia. In contrast, others push us to completely detach from our traumas and reality, like Bulimia and Binge Eating Disorder. 

But here’s where things become interesting, because often I see narcissistic mothers actively contributing to their childrens Eating Disorders, all for the sake of appearances.

Now for legal reasons, obviously, I am not claiming Yolanda Hadid to have abused her children or to be a narcissist, but let's consider how her parenting could have impacted Gigi and Bella.

In may of the Real Housewives clips, we see Yolanda encouraging incredibly restrictive eating habits with Gigi, as well as body shaming her on a number of occasions. What does this tell a child or teen? That your worth is based on your weight and your beauty. Similarly, we see Bella being shunned for Gigi, often looking like the black sheep of the family. This type of behaviour will express, “you are not as beautiful, successful, or as slim as your sibling, so you are less worthy of love and attention. This dynamic reminds me of the ‘golden child and black sheep’ split I see narcissistic parents create in their family units time and time again. It’s important to remember that a narcissist will see their children purely as a tool for their own success or affirmation, and if one child supplies this more than the other, the parent can cause unhealthy sibling conflict and comparison, a significant fracture. 

So yes, whilst having a narcissistic parent can often involve abuse and neglect that can lead to children and teenagers developing Eating Disorders as a means of coping, there is certainly something to be said about narcissistic mothers who promote Eating Disorders in their children, if the final outcome of it will benefit them.

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