Post # 1
My 14-year-old daughter just told me today she thinks she may have an eating disorder and has asked for help. I am just stunned. I had no idea. And I feel like an awful mother for not seeing it.
She is of normal weight (5’1″, 110 lbs), so I had no visual indication anything was off. She has always been a “picky” eater, but I’ve never seen her just refuse to eat.
Today, however, she tells me she felt she eats too much and needed to stop…so she stopped and now she can’t seem to make herself eat. She tells me she doesn’t eat during the day at all. She only eats dinnner with the family (so as to not cause suspicion) and she has to force herself to do that.
She knows something is wrong, but doesn’t know what to do. She has asked me to take her to see our family doctor, so we have an appointment.
Have any of you ever had an eating disorder? As a mom, I want to be there for her, but I don’t want to push her to eat either. What kind of support did you want from your mother? What helps and what makes things worse? I am just so worried about her, but at the same time very proud of her for realizing something was wrong and being brave enough to ask for help.
Post # 3
First, Bravo to your daughter to saying something! And double bravo to you for taking it serisouly. My sister has suffered with an ED for over 5 years. It started while we were both in high school and living at home. I vaguely remember her bringing up the idea to my mum that she (my sister) didn’t think she had a “normal” relationship or viewpoint with food. My mum thought she was just vying for attention or saw something on tv on it and thought it was “cool”. I dont want to speak to my sister’s physche, but I really think that made it a little worse. Finally after another three years, after it got really bad, my mum took notice.
Since she is on the younger side, the first thing I would do is make an appt with her primary care physician. Have her go in first and just have a conversation with the Dr. Then you two go in together. Make sure she feels like she is being heard, but at the same time its not overwhelming, scary, or shameful. I’m sure the Dr can then point you on to either a therapist or support group, or something geared toward exactly what stage your daughter is in.
My brain is going faster than I can type, so Im sorry if any of this seems confusing. Feel free to PM me.
Post # 4
Ahh, sorry for all my typos!! I usually spell check first. ::Embarrassed::
Post # 5
I’ve dealt with disordered eating/EDNOS, though fortunately it never got as serious or life-threatening as a lot of full-blown eating disorders do.
I think it’s a really good sign that she’s come to you asking for help – oftentimes secrecy is a big part of the issue. Eating disorders can and do occur in people of all body sizes, but ESPECIALLY since she’s been trying to hide her behavior by eating at dinner, it’s understandable that you did not notice anything was amiss.
There’s been a lot of changes recently in how families are looked at as a part of the solution and not part of the problem. I think the idea that parents are often a cause and should get out of the way of recovery is no longer relevant in a lot of cases – I’d suggest looking into the Maudsley method (http://www.maudsleyparents.org/). It’s very time and effort intensive and therefore not right for all families, but it’s certainly something to be aware of.
I would suggest looking into finding a professional. Hopefully your doctor can be helpful here. I’d also suggest that anyone who thinks your daughter is fine because she’s in a healthy BMI range is not someone you want to work with. I’ve had doctors tell me that it’s OK to be totally obsessed with restriction and exercise because I wasn’t small enough yet and it is the worst possible thing to hear from someone who is supposed to be helping.
Post # 6
wow. Serious kudos to her for telling you this. I don’t have any basis on which to give advice about this, but I’d definitely start with her doc and then find her a therapist or counselor who specializes in EDs for girls her age. It’s not your responsibility to “make” her eat – she needs to be treated for this like it was any other health issue. Good luck!
Post # 7
I’m so proud of you and your daughter! It is a hard thing for a young girl to openly talk about having (or think they have) an ED.
Taking her to see the your family doctor is a very good first step (I’m so amazed she suggeest that. You should be really proud of her)! I would let your family doctor know the reason why the appointment was made before you got there, but let your daughter talk to them first, alone. This way they are aware of the issue in case she does not want to bring it up during the examination. Letting her see the doctor alone is important because she may not be comfortable talking about everything infront of you.
Her stomach has most likely shrunk and that is why she is having so much trouble getting dinner down, along with the mental block with food. Just realize that when she does begin to eat more regularly her meals will be small and frequent until she gets used to the idea again. Best of luck and again the fact that she admitted she might have a problem is a HUGE step in itself!
Post # 8
I agree that it’s great that your daughter is coming to you. I think that’s a nod to your parenting skills, and how trustworthy you are. And it’s great that you’re taking it as seriously as you are. That is SO important, and you deserve to feel really good for being such a good mom.
I definitely agree that you should speak with her primary care physician, and either get a referral (or find one elsewhere) for a therapist/agency that specializes in adolescent treatment and/or eating disorder treatment. And find out what you can do to get involved in the treatment yourself. When a child or teenager enters a therapeutic program of any sort, it’s really important to have family involvement. Because they’re living at home, everything they do is impacted by the others in the home environment, and they impact others. Which is why it’s so important that you get involved–that way you can find out the best things you can do to help your daughter, and help yourself.
I guess, just possibly expanding on what I already said, I would make sure that your support network goes beyond JUST medical. Of course an eating disorder is medical in nature, though most doctors aren’t trained to handle the psychological side of an eating disorder. So it’s important that you have a more comprehensive treatment team involved. And let me know (via private message if needed) if you want help finding an agency in your area. I feel like I’ve had to do lots of research for mental health resources, and would be happy to help if you need it. 🙂
(Oh, and maybe I should have said this at the beginning…though I haven’t had an experience with eating disorders personally, I have a background in psychology/social work, and have done a lot of work with children, teens, and families)
Post # 9
I suffered from an ED after college when i had already moved out on my own. I was overeating and ‘binge’ eating combined with depression. My parents definitely knew something was wrong because i gained a ton of weight and was really withdrawn but they never said or did anything and I wish they would have. At the tiem I didn’t have a lot of friends nearby adn wasn’t in a relationship, so it was hard to come out of it on my own.
I definitely would have taken it well if my Mom suggested something. Like therapy or some kind of eating disorders group. It’s scary to go through it alone and not know where to turn, but it at least sounds like your daughter recognizes something is wrong so that’s a great starting point!
Post # 10
i’m so sorry you’re going through this, but it’s so amazing that your daughter cam to you! go to her pcp to have bloodwork done to check her overall health, then ask around for therapists that specialize in eating disorders. your pcp should have some names.
Post # 11
I’ve had an eating disorder for nearly half of my life, veering from anorexia to bulimia to binge eating. At 24, I’m finally starting to feel close to normal again. It’s always difficult for me to tell parents how to help their children through EDs, because it’s different for everyone.
First of all, you are absolutely NOT a bad mother, and this is not your fault. It’s not your daughter’s fault, either. You don’t consciously make an ED happen — it happens TO you. It is clear that your daughter sees a problem and wants to fix it, and that’s the first step.
In addition to a medical doctor, I might also suggest a nutritionist. If she thinks she eats too much, maybe she needs someone to tell her how much she should be eating for her age and activity level, as well as what benefits her body will gain from various foods. Remind her her body is still growing, and it needs food for that to happen properly. (I tell you this as a 5’1″ adult who has been the same height since my ED began at 12.)
Seeing a therapist can also be helpful. There may be a reason she stopped eating that she’s not comfortable talking about with you, or that she’s not even aware of herself.
As a mom, you’re absolutely right that you shouldn’t push her too hard at first. Take small steps, and let her know how proud you are of her for taking the initiative to help herself.
If you have any more specific questions, feel free to send me a message. 🙂 I wish you and your daughter the best!
Post # 12
I’ve dealt with it before and my folks (who I love dearly) were more concerned that a therapist would blame them and never took me anywhere, just tried to punish me if I didn’t eat and stuff – total failure there, lol
So, I’m like your daughter and have always been pretty self aware, so I just went to another trusted adult and got help thru them. I second the idea of one of the posters, call the doctor before the appointment so you can talk to him/her about why you’re coming first, so that they can have information on hand and a plan in mind. As well, as a parent I would seek out a support group of parents and family of someone with ED and see what’s working for them.
Good luck to you!
Post # 13
I struggled with an eating disorder for over 7 years and was in and out of inpatient and partial day treatment for quite some time. She has already done the hardest thing – admitted to you that she thinks something is not quite right, and asked for your help. I applaud you for handling this with sensitivity, and for wanting to do what is best for her. This is never easy for anyone involved.
The #1 thing I would like you to remember is that it is not all about weight. Please do not mention in front of her that she looks to be of ‘normal weight’ to you. Hearing those things can be so devastating to someone who is struggling with an eating disorder.
My mom was not the best at being supportive throughout my journey. What I wanted from her may not be what your daughter wants from you, but I can give a few thoughts/ideas from my perspective. I always felt horribly guilty for having an eating disorder…my mom kind of added to this with always asking what she did wrong and with making sure I knew how much my treatment was costing my parents. Talk to your daughter…find out how she would like you to help guide her through this. Be open and honest…and most importantly, be patient. Eating disorders sometimes take awhile to be treated.
I would also advise you to find proper help for her as soon as you can. These things can quickly spiral out of control.
I apologize for the length of my (uneloquent!) response. I am very passionate about eating disorder treatment and have so many thoughts I’d like to share with you! I did a very poor job of getting my thoughts across. Please feel free to send me a private message if you’d like any additional input. I wish you and your daughter the best of luck!
Post # 14
@Neva: Check out NPR’s website. They had a fascinating piece about a month ago about cutting edge ED research for younger girls. The treatment discussed was very different than what I have been through personally (my sister has struggled with an ED for more than half of her life), and was mainly focused on younger girls. The results sounded very positive!
Also, as many other posters have said, it’s important to always remember that EDs are not about food or diet, so it is imperative that your daughter see a therapist in addition to a doctor/nutritistionist/etc. and that the therapist specialize in ED treatment.
Good luck! I hope that one day I will be like you – the type of mother whose daughter can trust her and communicate with her. You should feel really good about that.
Post # 15
“The #1 thing I would like you to remember is that it is not all about weight. Please do not mention in front of her that she looks to be of ‘normal weight’ to you. Hearing those things can be so devastating to someone who is struggling with an eating disorder.”
COMPLETELY AGREE. And please don’t comment on everything she does/does not put into her mouth…the last thing she needs is to feel suffocated and like someone is trying to control her eating habits. But as others have said, kudos to you–she obviously loves you and feels comfortable enough to tell you that there’s a problem. I second the idea of finding a therapist that specializes in eating disorders.
Post # 16
I love the Bee!! Thank you all so, so much! I feel like I am totally in foreign territory with her and am so afraid of doing or saying something that may cause more damage.
Thanks @sorens for reminding me not to tell her she’s at a healthy weight. This is exactly the kind of advice I need…so I don’t inadvertently try to reassure her, but make her feel worse. Just this morning while she is telling me she has been eating too much, I’m thinking “You can’t possibly be eating too much when I just took you shopping last week and everything we bought was a size zero, one, or extra-small.” Thankfully, I didn’t blurt out what I was thinking and instead just told her how proud I was of her for realizing on her own something was amiss and for being brave enough to tell me.
We have an appointment this afternoon. Fortunately, our family doctor took this very seriously and found a way to fit her in today. I will keep you updated…