National Eating Disorders Association

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20 Year Old Daughter

Hello, my name is Sue. I have a daughter that has been struggling with ED since she was 14. It was all discovered when a very tramatic situation was surfaced. I have been pushing, begging, pleading, talking, forcing, crying, looking for something to help her. She refused going to a counselor for years, I would take her and she would not speak. It was nearly 2 ys and I could see the pain in her eyes, but she would not go. She absolutely hates being forced to do anything, and I mean anything at all. When she was 16 I knew my time was running short for being able to force her into getting help, so I gave her a choice,1.) her and I could research this disease and we would find a way to cure her, or 2.) she could go see a counselor ( I knew a very good one) or 3.) I was going to put her in an institution that could help her. She was MAD but she agreed to go see the counselor . She ended up seeing the counselor for about 5 months and she stopped purging, I was so very happy. I left her recovery up to her and we didn't talk about it. It was about a year that she was at least symptom free. At the age of 18 I really started to see the symptoms reoccurring. I would ask her how she was doing and she would say ok. We would talk about it for a while and I would ask her if she wanted to go back to her counselor, she did not. Then she ended up getting a boyfriend. This truly scared me because I knew that a man would hurt her, even if not on purpose, because it happens in relationships, and that is what has happened.
She is now 20, for the last 6 months she has been dropping weight, and a lot of it. She has lost weight and she was already thin to begin. She cannot deal with any problem, at all...she will go histarical screaming and throwing things, and hitting things, even if she hurts herself. There is absolutely no coping skills at all, and she is still purging and restricting. She claims that her food wont digest anymore, so that is why she is purging. She has had a history of fainting, it doesn't happen often but its very scary when it does. I have now met with her boyfriend and we have talked about this. He is trying to have better eating habits himself so that she will correct her eating, which I know wont work, but at least its something. He is trying to get her to go to the counselor as well, so that helps.
She is very attached to me, but she gets angry if I try to control her at all. She told me she doesn't want to die, but she doesn't want this disorder to go away either. I am so concerned and worried. I have tried to leave her alone to deal with this, but she is not doing anything and its getting worse. There is so much more to tell, obviously, but I need someone to tell me what I will have to do if she loses anymore weight. She does not have a regular doctor. I cant get her to do anything. What do I need to do to make her go to the hospital? I am at the end of my rope, I cant think of anything else to do, and I cant just sit there and wait for her to die either.

Hi Sue,

Thank you for sharing some of your story with us. I'm very sorry to hear about how much your daughter has been struggling with an ED, and I'm sorry to hear about all of the pain the ED has caused you.

It's important to try and remember that your daughter's resistance to treatment is the ED talking. The ED wants her to stay sick and affects her ability to see the situation rationally and to understand the danger she's in. Her malnutrition also affects her cognitive functioning, as well. The ED behaviors become like a coping mechanism, so it makes it really hard to let them go even if your daughter consciously understands they aren't good for her.

You mentioned that you were able to get your daughter to see a counselor when she was younger. Have you thought about contacting this counselor to see if (s)he has any advice or suggestions? The counselor has a better understanding of your daughter's situation and might have suggestions for resources near your family.

I think you need to keep communicating with your daughter and make it clear that you're concerned about her wellbeing. Perhaps your daughter's boyfriend can also express his concern and suggest that she seek professional help. (Sometimes hearing the same advice from more than one person makes it clear how serious the problem is.) If your daughter keeps losing weight, she may start to notice other physical symptoms that might be concerning to her that will motivate her to seek help. Can you get your daughter to go to a regular doctor for a general check-up? The doctor can check on her overall health, and may be able to talk to her about getting help and the potential negative health outcomes if she continues the ED behaviors. Unfortunately, in some ways, there's only so much a person's loved ones can do if the person themselves doesn't want help or doesn't understand why recovery is important.

I would recommend calling the NEDA Helpline (1-800-931-2237; Mon-Thur 9am-9pm EST, Fri 9am-5pm EST). They might know of other resources in your area that could be helpful. Maybe your daughter won't see a counselor or therapist, but would she consider a support group? Maybe talking with other people who also have an ED will help her understand what she's dealing with.

I also recommend NEDA's Parent Toolkit ( This is a really helpful guide that has useful information about EDs and about supporting loved ones with EDs. There are some great suggestions in here that might be helpful for your situation.

It sounds like you're a concerned parent trying to do the best you can for your family. That's very admirable, and you should feel proud of yourself for your hard work so far. I sincerely hope that your daughter comes around soon and will be willing to work with you towards recovery. I hope you find good advice and support on these forums. Please keep us updated. We all want the best for you and for your family. Good luck, Sue!

Hi Sekgsksue,

Thank you so much for sharing everything that you and your family has been going through due to your daughter's illness. It is incredible the time and effort you put into helping your daughter. I also agree with kelsey207 and think that the information she provided can be of value to you. I wish you the best and please update when you have a chance to do so.

Best wishes.