The Big Family Secret Surrounding Karen Carpenter’s Eating Disorder

Karen Carpenter had unarguably one of the most recognizable voices of the 1970s. Paired with her partner, Richard Carpenter, The Carpenters were the group that everyone knew and loved. However, Karen’s eating disorder issues started well before they started performing together. But no one knew.

After selling 100 million records and 17 hit songs, Karen Carpenter’s complications due to anorexia led to her death in February of 1983. She was just 32 years old at the time of her passing, truly a tragic day for her many fans and family.

Singer, Karen Carpenter's change in physical appearance shown side by side with photo from 1970 and 1974. Carpenter appears very thin in both photos.
Karen Carpenter looking very thin in 1970 (left) vs 1974 (right) | Credits: Michael Ochs & Michael Putland, Getty Images

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karen carpenter richard carpenter
Karen Carpenter with her brother Richard | Wikimedia Commons

New Information about Karen Carpenter’s Disorder

A new book by author Randy Schmidt has revealed the truth surrounding Karen Carpenter’s eating disorder. Karen was deprived of her mother’s affection at a young age due to her mother’s apparent “inability to love.”

When it came to filming the CBS documentary The Karen Carpenter Story (Now Streaming On Amazon) any mention of Karen’s deprived affection was written out. Her mother, Agnes, refused to have the family painted in a negative light for the documentary, thus leaving out the truth.

karen carpenter
Wikimedia Commons

Aspects of Karen’s Childhood that affected her Disorder

Karen’s eating disorder began right out of high school. She had been a “chubby teenager” and simply wanted to lose a few pounds. After hiring a personal trainer that ultimately caused her to gain weight, she took matters into her own hands. She lost 20 pounds on her own but unfortunately didn’t stop there.

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When she began performing was when her health really took a rapid decline. She didn’t like the way she looked in her stage outfits, thus prompting her drastic weight-loss measures. She would hide in fluffy blouses or jumpers during the day. At night, her stage attire would be low-cut gowns that accentuated her skeletal body. Fans thought she was dying of cancer.

karen carpenter
Wikimedia Commons

Anorexia: A Social Taboo In The 70s

Anorexia was considered a taboo topic back then, as no one really openly struggled with it. Despite that, family and friends tried their best to help Karen. Unfortunately, she kept denying any assumptions that she was ill. Additionally, despite attempts to convince Karen’s parents to take her to a mental health specialist, her parents declined and said psychiatrists were for “crazy people.”


Eventually, Karen did receive treatment for her condition, but she only found new ways to lose more weight. She discovered and utilized laxatives, taking 80 to 90 tablets a night. She additionally was on unprescribed thyroid medication to speed up her metabolism. Once Karen began experiencing complications from her condition, she was admitted to the hospital where she ultimately gained some weight back. However, this was not enough to save her and her body was simply defeated from the years of self-harm.

Nixon with The Carpenters
Nixon Meeting with Karen and Richard Carpenter – Flickr

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The Carpenters in 1978 performing at ABC's 25th Anniversary Special
The Carpenters in 1978, Richard & Karen on stage (Photo: Walt Disney Television via Getty Images)

Watch The Last Interview Ever With Karen Carpenter Below

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