National Eating Disorders Association

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Daughter Miserable at a Residential Treatment Facility

My 15-year old daughter got admitted to a residential treatment this week. She has been calling us crying, begging us to pick her up and that she does not belong there. Her ED is she restricts then she binges, copes through over exercising and use of laxative. She also diagnosed with depression. Her ED, body dysmorphia and depression surfaced this past April and we tried outpatient but she was resistant to care especially the dietician. The outpatient team recommended a more consistent care thus she is now in a residential facility. She felt like the treatment program is over feeding her (3 full meals plus 3 snacks/day) without any exercise. She is very concerned about gaining weight. Her weight is actually normal for her height but in her mind she is overweight. She is doing everything the program asking her to do just to get a check off with hopes of getting home as soon as possible. But she is very worried right now that she will be gaining weight at the facility. Now she has been calling us saying how lonely and miserable she is there. She said she is better now and she can do all this when she gets home. My main concern is her depression right now, I don't want her to go into deeper depression. Please help!

Dear Cocon,

Dear Cocon,

While this may not be helpful, I just wanted to mention that what you and your daughter are going through is *really* common. Off they go to the treatment place, and then come all the unsettling phone calls !! Honestly, treatment places need to forewarn parents about this so that they'll be prepared for it when it comes. This flavor of distress is a very common reaction, when people first find themselves in treatment.

Part of it is that everything they are being asked to do feels absolutely and totally wrong. Eating itself feels wrong, having other people control their food choices feels wrong, and it just never stops ! It seems like you just managed to finish some breakfast that seemed *way* too large, and then they want you eating some snack !! Having food being pushed at you from morning 'till night ! Clearly they don't care at all whether you get fat or not ! People truly can find themselves getting worked up in situations like that.

Fortunately, most people get past it. Ten days to 2 weeks seems to be how long it usually takes before their distress begins to let up a little. But in the mean time, they legitimately do feel desperate, and they do feel like hatching some kind of plan to get out of there.

What you can do is to try and stay calm. That sounds kind of simplistic I know, but somebody needs to be "the rock", if you know what I mean ? You can't really tell her that things will get better, as that's a thing that she'll need to feel on her own. But you can have some sympathy for her distress, and the feelings of "wrongness" that she's feeling now.

Also, I'm not sure how the phone situation is there, but if you have an idea of when she usually calls, you might try calling her before she calls you ? That would show your good intentions as well.

Otherwise, I'd give it 10 days or 2 weeks, before you really start to worry about whether she'll be able to tolerate it there or not. In my experience, most people in treatment seem to settle into things by then.

Thank you Bob for the

Thank you Bob for the reassurance! Last night phone call was better! She even asked for a care package. You are right, I wish the treatment place forewarned us that this will happen. But I will remain hopeful that each day will get better for her! Thank you for your advice!!!