National Eating Disorders Association

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how to confirm daughter has eating disorder

I was 95% convinced that my daughter was bulimic and purging over a year ago. I told her what we thought was happening and she vehemently denied it. We took her to our pediatrician who is experienced with eating disorders and my daughter denied it to her also. We had consultations with a private eating disorder specialist who suggested we bring my daughter in for counseling and that eventually she would open up about the eating disorder. My daughter is very headstrong and we do not think she would do so. The therapist's other option would be to enroll her in a residential program. I would do so if I was absolutely sure that she is bulimic or if she admitted to having a problem. However, I am not 100% sure she is bulimic. I have considered videoing her in the bathroom. Though I do not want to do this, I am afraid she will continue the purging. How can I know for sure that she is purging so that I can tell her that we know and get her into treatment?

Hi cherbag79, welcome to the

Hi cherbag79, welcome to the forums! This is a great community full of people who are going through various versions of what you’re going through, so you’ve come to the right place.

It is extremely tough to approach a loved one about these concerns, so I want to applaud you for that. Many people have difficulty with what to say, and you're very brave for starting that conversation - it shows how much you care for her. That said, it is equally tough battling with whether or not you know "for sure." I'd say follow your gut. Speaking from personal experience, I did everything in my power to hide my eating disorder from everyone, and many people struggling with them do as well. It is often the instinctive response to deny it when anyone brings it up, because the person suffering from an ED likely does not want to stop or, more accurately, is not ready to stop and does not realize the harmful consequences of their behavior. EDs are powerful diseases. I would say that if you feel she won't stop on her own, treatment could definitely be helpful, although she may need to feel ready to make that change in order for treatment to be most effective. Have you brought up the idea of treatment to her at all?

In the meantime, I'd like to direct you to some resources that might be helpful in terms of being the best support system you possibly can:

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! We're here for you.


Hi, I am just checking in to see how you are doing and your daughter? Has she opened up to you? Are you going to send her to a treatment center? Know you are not alone. Many mothers, of which I am not, but a daughter of parents who watched me suffer. So, I hope you get the help you need. Take care,