National Eating Disorders Association

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Changes to personality

My 23 year old daughter has had a notable change in personality since she began struggling with ED in college. This illness has cost her a good job, the desire to finish her degree, and most of her personal relationships because she isn't the person she was. I love her, but I only rarely see the sweet caring person that I knew her to be before this overtook her. She has been in and out of several residential and PHP treatments during the past 4 years, and is in residential again now, but nothing seems to be working. I know some of the problem stems from lack of medication compliance and she continues to engage a lot in self-harm. I fear for her, as she is very ambivalent about living. Why isn't she getting any better with treatment? Is it possible that the constant exposure to others who have some of the same problems is holding her back? I have to say that it was easier to have hope earlier in her treatment, but it gets harder as she seems to go deeper into this black hole. Has anyone had a child who came out of treatment worse than they went in? Then again, if she hadn't gone into treatment, I'm not sure if she would be here today. How do you keep up hope?

Welcome to the forums


Welcome to the forums!

I think these forums can be a great place to helpful for keeping feelings of hope alive, sharing experiences and being able to lean on others is critical. ED recovery is a long journey with so many ups and downs even after treatment.Your daughter's relapse has to be incredibly trying especially since she does't want to talk right now. ED is an illness that twists the truth but that sweet, caring person that you remember is still in there.

I just wanted to stop by and say welcome, I hope that you find some comfort here on the forums. We are here for you! I wish you and your daughter the best.


Sounds like it has been a real struggle, but there is still,hope as long as she is willing to try. From what I understand, being in starvation mode changes a persons personility, and we have witnessed that with our son, but as he approaches his goal his personality is coming back. i hope the same for your daughter. She needs to see some success, and then build on it. When you say she is worse, in what way?


My 20 year old daughter is going through the same thing as your 23 year old daughter - has gone through all the programs and even the ones that are successful it is only for a short time and then she relapses again. Her personality has changed too which has led to loss of friends and a challenging relationship with us. I believe we will find our sweet and caring daughter again but it is going to take time. I also ask myself the same question is it possible that her exposure to all types of behavior in residency, hospitals, outpatient therapy has influenced her behavior to change and perhaps pick up on what others do and take on same behaviors?
You are not alone in this.

Picking up behaviours from treatment

Is a concern of ours as well. I think most programs would be aware of this and try to,counter it.

I know that we need to trust

I know that we need to trust the system and that her treatment team is much more aware of the twists and turns that this illness takes, but it is hard when we don't see much improvement after such intense treatment. Her weight has been restored, which she absolutely hates, and her suicidal ideation and self harm tendency is stronger than it ever has been. She is being moved down to a PHP in the same city soon, after a very long stay in res. Most of the last several years has been spent away from home in treatment. I am now starting to fear for the time when she will be coming home. I want her to be here, but we live in a small town away from any ED related services. This experience has opened my eyes to the great need our community has for mental health treatment facilities. It's such a long drive to get to where she can get adequate treatment. I know there must be many people in the same position. How many people actually move to accommodate ED treatment, I wonder.


You have all been through a lot. Sounds like a few concurrent issues. Hope that some continuing therapy, and perhaps some change in meds will,provide some relief.

RE: changes to personality

We are in the same situation. Our college-aged daughter struggles with anorexic tendencies and we have been avoiding putting her in a treatment center b/c we want for her to maintain independence and the life she has built if at all possible. Only time will tell if she can put weight on and make progress in weekly outpatient therapy. The helplessness has created depression in both parents and we are not able to parent siblings who are still at home with any real sense of peace or joy, and I feel a lot of resentment about that as well. DD is an athlete at her college, but cannot compete even if she gains b/c they don't want her just gaining in order to compete; college athletic department is very intrusive and controlling, which only creates a control battle. And we all know who wins in a control battle--the person with the ED. Many in the college athletic dept have access to private and confidential information and gossip about it w/ her teammates. She is in denial that she has a true problem, maintains a non-life-threatening weight, but it's an illusion of control. At what point did any of you who are parents of college-aged-onset anorexia/ED see that your child realized and admitted he/she had a problem? It has been a nightmare that we have stumbled into. No signs of this before college, very healthy relationship with food always, but did indeed have perfectionistic tendencies. She is maintaining a healthy enough weight for now to stay out of inpatient, but is not allowed to compete and is furious and in denial. WE are praying that the therapy works, have read too many stories of this whole ED-intensive approach and so many seem to fail (coercion, power struggle, taking autonomy away--of course that is necessary if situation is life threatening). The therapist we hired is an M.D. who focuses on underlying issues and does not engage in coercive tactics. In the meantime, she must photograph every morsel that enters her mouth and text the photo to dietician at her college. Whole situation is unhelpful and demoralizing and, of course, would invite dishonesty. We have seen HUGE changes in her personality and are grieving the loss of the girl we all knew and loved. She is anxious, incredibly controlling of everyone in the family, irritable and critical, condescending.....our family dreads spending holidays with her, and I feel so guilty for feeling that way about my child. If anyone has seen their college-aged child show real progress -- and if anyone is the parent of a college athlete with this affliction, would love to hear any experiences or advice. Terrified right now.