National Eating Disorders Association

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Adult daughter refusing treatment!

I have a 22 year old daughter refusing treatment. I've gotten her a doctor once claiming it was a physical. She had a blood draw, passed out and ended up in the emergency room that day because of low BP and blood sugar. That didn't scare her enough to admit she has a problem. I am scared to death and feel i'm watching my daughter die! There has to be another parent who has had an adult child refuse treatment. How did you get them to a treatment center?? Can I take away her phone, car, etc. since I still pay for those? I feel like I'm dealing with a bratty 13 year old again and feel foolish, but I'm desperate for any way to help her.


Hi and welcome to the forum. I am sorry it's been a while that you got a response. And I am not sure how helpful mine will be. Somehow my parent's always managed to get me into a hospital against my wishes even when I was in my 30's and 40's. I do not know how. I don't know how the hospital she went to from fainting and low blood pressure and low blood sugar didn't hold her for evaluation. Before I go any further, I want you to understand that eating disorders are a mental illness. She isn't trying to be "bratty". The brain doesn't function properly when it isn't nourished properly. It doesn't think, process, or process clearly. It is malnourished and is not able to think like it does if properly nourished. So I would try to understand that when dealing with her. As far as getting her into a treatment facility, I don't know. Having her medical doctor state it is medically necessary? I am sorry but I really don't know. I know a lot of my admissions were easier because I was self harming and it wasn't just the eating disorder so I was a danger to myself so that was very cut and dry. I would try talking with a NEDA volunteer whos number is on the National Eating Disorder Association web site. You can do a live chat or talk on the phone and they may be able to give you more answers than I was able. I just want to let you know you are not alone, and please post again. You are a doing a good job and trying hard to do the right thing. It is painful and difficult to watch a daughter destroy herself. My mom cried herself to sleep so many times she can't count. My parents would peek in my room at night just to make sure I was breathing. But because of God, and my parents and the love of my church family, I am more free than ever. I wish you the best.

Thank you for sharing your

Thank you for sharing your story. I've unfortunately been through this with her older sister about 10 years ago. But she was under 18 so I could take her to the hospital and admit her. I have talked to NEDA and the doctors have said she needs to be hospitalized. My problem is she is refusing. So unless I pick her up against her will and take her, I'm limited on treatment. I have her set up to go to a clinic for treatment - I just need her to go. It's the most frustrating thing ever to see her refuse treatment. I'm taking baby steps and every step is one in the right direction. Next is me taking away her phone and car since I still pay for those. Seems childish, but I've been told it's what I need to do. I'm hoping someone else has been this desperate and tell me what worked for them. I am so scared and all her family and friends are too.

re: Thank you for sharing your

Hey jladdish—welcome to the forums! You've come to the right place for support. This is a great community full of people who understand firsthand what EDs are capable of.

My heart aches for you and your daughter. I'm so sorry she's not at a place where she's ready to accept help. I mostly just wanted to chime in and gently remind you that if your daughter does not want to recover, she won't recover. No amount of treatment, inpatient or out, will be able to magically cure her if she doesn't want to get better. EDs are complex mental illnesses and she might be clinging to hers for any number of reasons, but recovery takes a lot of hard work—emotional, mental and physical—and unfortunately you can't do that work for her.

I know how excruciating it must be to feel like you're sitting on the sidelines totally helpless, but I wanted to share some resources here on the NEDA website that might be helpful, too. There are other ways you can support your daughter until she's ready to accept help, simply by educating yourself about the disease and knowing some basic guidelines of what to say (and not to say).

Parent Toolkit ( this is an incredible resource for anyone who's trying to support someone suffering from an ED.

General information about EDs:

ED-specific information:

Big list of links to resources that fall under the topic “how to help”--I suggest focusing on the Family, Friends and Caregivers section:

NEDA blog ( really great resource for stories of hope—not just for sufferers but loved ones too.

NEDA Helpline ( have you tried contacting the volunteers at NEDA, whether by phone or online chat? They can provide specific answers to some of your questions and they can also be a good shoulder to lean on when you just need a live body to talk to.

Please keep us posted on what's going on with your daughter. And never lose hope—I'm four years into full recovery and I never would have imagined that was possible five years ago. We're here for you.

refusing treatment

im in the same boat after multiple admissions and 7 yrs of damage to my daughter im at my wits end

Refusing to Embrace Recovery

I am also very frustrated and worried. My daughter has been in intensive treatment for two years. She recently checked herself out of treatment (against medical advice) and has come home with almost nothing in place to support her. There are very few resources where we live. Her stated goal as soon as she got back was to take off the weight that had been restored, and she is now underweight again and restricting to a frightening degree. I don't know how she manages to function with the little she eats. All she ever drinks is diet sodas, and I see all the hard work that she accomplished in residential treatment on restricting and self harm just going to waste. She's in a fast downward spiral, and I don't know how or when this is going to end. It is so scary and sad. I see that until she is the one to embrace change, nothing we can say or do is likely to fix this. I am so thankful that treatment centers exist, but they don't seem to have had any effect on her. I wonder if more of the same is worth it, but then again, what is the alternative? We never thought this could happen to her...she used to be happy and healthy. I find myself mourning the absence of the sweet kid she used to be, and I feel so guilty about saying it.


its so hard and i told my daughter today to get out of my house talk about guilt i did know if that would push her to suicide but watching her self destruct everyday is just that. She told me mom you were always able to fix things but now she had to do the fixing and i told her stop feeling that she can not lean on those around her for help, its not failure to get help especially when the ED voice is so loud in her head. I am so saden that there are so many families dealing with eating disorders ,as we reach out for support with the very tool that may be killing our kids ....the internet

Next step

Since my daughter is living with me and I pay her bills, my next step is to turn off her phone today. She finally admitted to a friend of hers that she knows she has a problem and needs to fix it. But, when I brought up IOP again (6 days/week), she said she's not quitting work so she's still not willing to go. So I get to be the bad parent and treat her like she's 13 years old and turn off her phone. Next would be taking away her car. Seems childish, but I know I don't have another option. I want my 22 year old happy, healthy daughter back!

Punishing a person into treatment.


I can understand where you may feel the need to exert further control over your daughter, by taking away her phone and her car, but I'm not sure that upping the adversarial nature of the thing is going to be the best approach.

I'm not a parent, so I'm not the best one to ask about this. And I know that you feel you must do something, so you may want to call the NEDA hotline, and see what sort of steps they might suggest ?

I have talked to NEDA, an ED

I have talked to NEDA, an ED counselor, an ED clinic and read books/articles. I've been told to use whatever hold I have to get her to enter treatment. They are all in support of withholding her phone, car, college tuition, etc. I can't sit by and watch my daughter waste away. She's going to push back and she may hate me for a while. But, I can live with that. If she's still here but never talks to me again - then at least I've saved her life.

Been there

I am only a parent and not a professional. However, I have always been advised by the professionals that I have dealt with while dealing with my adult daughter's (24) ED that you do not have to enable her choices. If you are financially supporting your daughter then you do have the right to insist that she receive treatment or that you will no longer financially support her. Now be prepared that you may not immediately get the response that you want and she may even try walking away from you but if your daughter is truly financially dependent on you and lives with you then you have every right to use that and any means possible to get her into treatment. Always let her know that you are there for her if and when she is willing to accept help but that you will no longer be her pawn or enabler and stand by watching her harm herself. I know your always told they have to want to be treated for it to help but there is also always the chance that while in treatment, even against their will, a light bulb might go off and maybe she will actually accept being helped. You have every right as a parent to do whatever you have to do to try to get your daughter to accept help. I have been where you are and although my daughter still struggles, she is trying now to get better. My prayers are with you and your daughter.

I could have written the

I could have written the script for the way our conversation went when I told her I was withdrawing financial support. She walked away, told me I was treating her like a child, etc. But I didn't expect anything different and I'm o.k. with that. I keep waiting for that "aha" moment when she realizes I'm only here to help. I wish the one time she ended up in the emergency room, that I had tried to get them to hold her for further observation. I thought for sure that would be the thing to make her realize how sick she is. But I also know I'm not dealing with my daughter - I'm dealing with the disease and it's controlling her. I just want my girl back and will do anything and everything I can! Thank you for your encouraging words. It helps so much knowing someone else (and way too many it seems) is going through this.

I stand with you

Your not alone. Be strong, keep living your life and be ready for when she wants help. Have a plan in place. God Bless. <3

Making baby steps

I feel I made another step in the right direction the past few days. I used the "turn off your phone" tactic - and it worked? I told her she needs to contact her boss and take a medical leave of absence or I would and I would also turn off her phone. It took some prodding, but she did it. She's agreed to go into treatment Aug. 7. It's an IOP program so I told her she'll be able to come home at night so treatment will just be her "job" for a while. I'm crossing everything I can that this works!!

I did want to ask - has anyone watched "To The Bone" on Netflix and if so, did you watch with your child? I'm not sure it would be helpful or hurtful. Thought I'd see what others thought.

To the Bone.

I watched it online, with a web group of people who have EDs the evening that it came out. These folks are connoisseurs of the ED movie genera. Among those who have EDs themselves, there's been quite a bit of conversation about it, and the reaction has been mixed. Some liked it and were emotionally moved by certain parts, while others thought it was corny. As far as these sorts of ED dramas go, it's probably better than most I thought.

But keep in mind that it's not a documentary. It's just not. It's one attractive white girl's story as she spends time in a fairly comfortable residential setting where some of the treatment approaches are unconventional, and which tends to stress personal responsibility food-wise over forcing people to eat. It's good in that they show a diversity of people with EDs, which most such movies rarely do. Plus they get to have the handsome Keanu Reeves as their doctor. There's an awkward romance between a couple of the residents that most people didn't feel added much to the thing. There's also enough "in" content that's included for ED veterans to feel assured that the writers knew what they were talking about. So there's some realism and authenticity to it from that angle.

There's no uplifting happy ending though. And few open attempts to change a sufferer's attitude towards their ED. We appear to see the hero have epiphanious change of heart towards recovery at the end, so that part was positive I thought. But that's pretty much where they leave it. You don't really know if they will succeed at recovery or not, which probably leaves some room for productive conversation if a person should watch it with their child.

So I guess one needs to consider what one's attitude towards ED's as a subject for drama is. There certainly are plenty of them being made these days, to add to the many (often terrible ones) that have been made in the past.

It's gotten some decent reviews from individual treatment providers, but how such movies manage to kick the can any further down the road remains open to question I think.

Thank you for the feedback.

Thank you for the feedback. I think I'll avoid bringing it up to my daughter - she may very well have already watched it. Since she's agreeing to treatment starting next week, I'm going to let the ED clinic discuss it and make any recommendations should the movie topic come up.

Is IOP helping?

I scoured the internet trying to find someone in the same position I am in and found your post. Our nightmare started about 22 months ago, coming up on 2 years. We have a 21-year-old daughter whose weight is now well below her normal, naturally slim weight. She is a college runner and was being monitored closely and not allowed to compete unless she gained weight, so she managed to gain a little and cheated the weigh-ins enough to be allowed to compete again. She has been home all summer (where she swore to everyone--us, her coach, her M.D./therapist (who is where her college is), the team doctor--that she would do best being left to gain weigh on her own), and instead, her weight has stayed the same and even dropped some more. She is clearly depressed and compulsively addicted to exercising several times per day. Did your daughter show up for Intensive Outpatient a few days ago? How is she responding? Our daughter is asking to withdraw from school/the team for the fall semester "so she can gain weight on her own at a steady, gradual rate"" rather than go back and be monitored by the athletic department. We have don everything, to no avail. She doesn't want help, refuses antidepressant medication (which her M.D./therapist says would help for her to be able to even look at the problem. She is a different person, and we wonder if it's the depression or the malnutrition affecting her personality in such marked ways. Do you have any advice? Our daughter is financially independent due to running scholarship, except for medical bills/cell phone. Her weight is getting dangerously low (lanugo on her arms and face), and we feel crushing despair and helplessness, like we are watching her slowly kill herself. Does anyone have advice? We have tried giving her the latitude/autonomy for the past year and half and it isn't working. Next step would be to force her to continue therapy and start IOP program (where she could continue to exercise while she keeps trying to gain weight (bad for her but if she is committed to inpatient and not able to exercise, she may bolt out of there) OR to commit her to inpatient if we got a court order. She has said that she is willing to show up for IOP and therapy but has remarked numerous times it has ZERO value to her. We are spending a fortune on the therapy (therapist is highly recommended, excellent, but he has said she is unwilling to look at things and he believes it may be partially due to malnutrition and the need for medication). Sorry to ramble.....jladdish, I hope your daughter showed up for her IOP and is responding well. You are in my thoughts. I know the feeling of complete helplessness.

edit notification

Hi parent-of-older-ED, your post has been edited to comply with our community guidelines: Users are not allowed to post details about specific weight or numbers, as this information may be triggering for forum users who are suffering from EDs. Thanks for helping us keep this a safe space for everyone!


Sorry about that -- thanks for the editing and the link to the community guidelines.


Good morning. My daughter did go to treatment all last week (M-Sat). The 1st day was "willingly", the 2nd day she refused but we somehow wore her down. The 3rd, 4th, etc. got easier. She even started talking to me more each day. Of course it was how "stupid" and "dumb" everyone was there and the food was disgusting - but I'll take negative over silence! She told me after I took her last Saturday that she wasn't going back. She promised if I cook for her (we eat fairly healthy at home) that she would follow the rules. But, she didn't eat well on Friday & Saturday night or all day Sunday at home with me, even though I cooked. She is trying to manipulate us to let her to stop treatment. But I know it's not her talking - it's the anorexia. So I talked about everything but treatment all weekend and last night, I gave her to option to drive herself today. She didn't fight it (though she didn't talk to me much which is o.k.). I think the more nutrition and calories she receives, the more her brain heals and the more she's cooperating just a little more. It didn't hurt I promised her a kitten!! We don't have her on anti-depressants - we tried but she quit after a month. I'm not pushing too much since she is eating in treatment (though it takes her 2 hours to finish). I do still support my daughter for college tuition, car insurance, health insurance and phone. So, I did turn off her phone, changed the wi-fi password and took her car keys. I felt ridiculous doing it, but after asking for advice from ED counselors, they said that was o.k. They are acting like a 13 yr old teenager because they're brain is malnourished, so I had to treat her like a 13 yr old. The phone was what got her! I did also talk to a lawyer about getting medical guardianship if necessary. My daughter too is dangerously low. I talked to her one day and tried to get her to see it from my side. I asked her if I had a deadly disease (I used breast cancer) and I just said I'm not going to get treatment and you're just going to have to watch me die - how would that make you feel. She didn't really respond, but maybe it gave her something to think about. My daughter has told me over and over - they're not helping her, she can do it on her own. So it's not just your daughter. The counselors tell me they all try that. We as the parent just have to not let her manipulate us and remember - it's the anorexia talking. My daughter doesn't talk in therapy either. But I show up to the family therapy and I don't play "food police" at home (though that's tough). I truly think the only thing forcing her to go is taking away the phone and car. Seems silly, but maybe give it a try. It may be worth her withdrawing from school at this point and just making treatment her full time job. It truly sucks to watch our kids go through this. I would love to keep in touch and hear how your daughter is doing.


I spend a whole lot of time over on "the other side" on a site that can't be named here. People talk about all sorts of things that they still have not had the nerve to tell their therapists about. And what I wanted to say is that I read a lot of things that sound pretty much like what your daughter may find herself thinking.

As in….they really want to recover….and they want to "do it on their own"….but at the same time they definitely don't want to gain any weight !

Most of the other people there will tell them that they can't really have their cake and eat it too. That there's pretty much no way around it, they really will have to start eating and gaining. On one level they understand that this is true, but as you've seen, these habits can be incredibly persistent. At some point in the game many of them come to the understanding that they really will need outside help if they are ever going to get the nutrition they need.

But yes, when do they reach that point ? It's possible that your taking away her privileges may give her the excuse she heeds to go back into treatment. It's quite possible that one part of herself really does know that she needs to go, because many people who are still loosing also begin to understand that it really can't go on forever. But it may be easier for her to actually get the help that she needs when she has the excuse of "My mom is forcing me to do it !".

I can't really tell you what the answer is to all this, but in my experience most people who actually do try and "do it on their own" end up becoming even more upset when they find out they just can't. It's hard to say, of course, but that may be the next phase of all this, if she continues to find out she can't eat.

Also, it's been my experience that there are very few happy anorexics. Once they've been in it for a while, and come to understand that it's now moved beyond their control, they come to hate the situation they find themselves in, even if they are still working at loosing. So that may enter into things too at some point.

In any case, I know there may not be much comfort in any of this, but what I mean is….It's quite possible that a part of her actually does want to recover, despite all of the things that she finds herself saying and doing.


So glad to hear that your daughter is going to treatment and talking more, that it's better than silence. So many of your observations mirror those that I have of my daughter (21). Taking the phone away is not something I would have thought of -- won't work unless she is living at home. As of right now, we are waiting on results of a phone evaluation for IOP (intensive outpatient) that is near her college, so that she can return for her senior year. She also has a medical evaluation tomorrow by an M.D. I have no idea what the outcome will be. What I noticed is now that she has agreed to go to IOP if accepted, she seems more relaxed. Also realize that so many of her behaviors--totally uncharacteristic of her before this -- such as slamming doors, frowning constantly, not talking to us at all, extreme sarcasm, and a 24/7 obsession with what others in the family are eating--are the disease talking, and not our daughter. Jladdish, please keep us posted on how she is doing. Not sure how to give you my email address without posting it publicly on this forum, but would like to keep in touch. Hoping your daughter is still going for treatment this week.

Back into treatment

My daughter stopped treatment at one facility with the hope of going to a different one. But she was too unstable for them to accept her other than residential treatment in another state. Of course she refused. We are back to a program that is PHP (M-Sat). We're on day 3. She's going but unwillingly again. She argues that everyone is stupid and doesn't know what they're talking about. She hates the food they're offering her (it's not healthy she says) and she said (again) she can do it on her own. When she goes on and on about how awful it is in treatment, I honestly don't know what to say. I wish I had some advice on how to respond to her. 2 weeks at home and she didn't gain anything, so I know she can't. Though we tried our hardest - I so wanted to believe she could. But realistically, I know she needs help. She's actually at a very scary and unstable place right now. I've been told to get medical guardianship in the event she has refeeding issues and needs to be transported to the hospital. If she's not complaining about how awful the program is, it's the silent treatment. I've just let her rant but don't give her any indication she's going to be allowed to stop. She says I'm not treating her like an adult and all choices have been taken from her. I'm assuming all of this is "normal" and I'm not the only parent experiencing the hatred and constant negativity? I know it's only the first week, so I hope little by little as she gains weight, things will improve.

Back into treatment

Thanks for your post on 9/8 about your daughter and please know that others are thinking of you. It sounds like you are doing everything you possibly can as a parent and hopefully that gives you some sense of peace. It feels like we are heading toward what you are experiencing now, but aren't there yet. Much is being handled right now by the athletic department where daughter attends school and competes, which takes us "off the hook"--for now. They are the "bad guys" insisting on treatment. To her credit, daughter started meds one month ago, is going to therapy, and is gaining weight. But the inner demons persist and I don't see this self-correcting without stronger interventions (which are in the works). I wish I had advice to offer about how to respond when your daughter goes on about how awful it is in treatment. On the one hand, you don't want to discount her experience and not all programs are good; on the other, it may be her disease talking and she might say it about even the best of programs. It sounds like you are willing to listen and not shut her down when she needs to rant. The fact that she is going, however unwillingly, is still good. As BobJ48 pointed out (above), a part of her may know she needs treatment and on some level want it. That is my hope for your daughter, our daughter, and so many others.