National Eating Disorders Association

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20 year old son super sedentary and over eating - Scared Mom

I just joined this forum as I was looking for IOP and inpatient treatment for men with eating disorders. My 2o year old son will spend all day horizontal in bed on electronic devices only to get up to drive for take out or Chinese food. He has been treated for depression since he was 6 years old (father bipolar). He is on the highest dose of an ADHD stimulant which should curtail his appetite and give him some energy.
I think he is slowly committing suicide. He is treated by the top psycho-pharmacologist, and highly recommended outpatient therapist. He has had a sleep study and full battery of psycho-social testing. I have raised him in a (divorced) home that has modeled good eating (not crazy) and regular exercise and solid work habits.
I just yelled at him out of concern. As a parent I cannot watch what he is doing. I asked him what it would be like if I spent 22 out of 24 hours in bed and ate only unhealthy food all day, he said he would be worried.
He's a great, nice, smart kid. But he is lonely and I know he is not happy with how he looks, he hides in a big coat all day inside the house.
Can anyone relate or advise? I know things won't change until he wants them to change. Just super hard to watch as a mom who loves her son.

Post Edited

Hi Kimba1505, welcome to the forums! Just wanted to let you know that your post has been edited to remove any specific food related words as these might be triggering to the other forum members. You can find our forum guidelines here: Please keep posting!


This is a rough situation alright ! As you said, it's probably related to depression, but as I suspect you have seen, meds often don't seem to help a lot.

People with depression and worries about their appearance really can feel alone and isolated lot of the time, so finding ways to not feel quite so alone with the sorts of feelings he must be having can help some I think.

There are forums where people in his situation can get together and talk with each other, so perhaps something along the lines of a peer-to-peer forum might be helpful for him ? It's not therapy per-sa, but it can help people understand that it's not just them, but that there are others who are in the same boat who understand what they are going through. And simply feeling as though you are authentically being understood…that can help some I think.

BobJ48 Edit

Hello Bobj48. Your post has been slightly edited. Users are discouraged from posting outside links that have not been previously endoresed by NEDA itself. Thank you for your understanding. And as always, the community guidelines can be found here:

Hello Kimba. We hear you.

Hello, I know it's not of much comfort, and i have no great answers, but know that people care and hear you. I can sense your utter loss of what to do and where to go. Yes, i'd say that my ED did not exist separately from my clinical depression and anxiety disorder, and that story of your son's struggles sounds very much like what was my experience during some periods in my life. I don't know if I should say the name of a specific treatment center, but a pretty simple search-engine question could point you in the right direction. It SOUNDS to me, from the outside, that you ARE doing a great job helping him, and you then must know that Depression is a tough illness to crack and beat. My personal struggle was a lot like his, in that i gave up on life, and sort of lived IN my depression and anxiety and eating disorder, and had no fight left in me to even hope for hope. I even went back to college with the effed-up plan to LIVE IN and WITH my ED, depression & anxiety. I cared more about being sick than being well, and there's no amount of goading, anger, love, warmth or whatever that will heal him. It must be like watching a person struggling with cancer, who refuses to get medical help for it. But that's ironically a SYMPTOM & CAUSE of the illness: it WANTS to win, and do so by failing it's carrier. Diabolical manipulative illness it is, cunning, baffling and powerful. It's thought that the internet, facebook and the like have CONTRIBUTED to so many young people's emotional struggles, but i don't want to advise you on that issue either. You may even need to get your own therapist, and trough a referral from HIS doctor. Th tough and catch-22 of having depression and anxiety, is that it's a self-fulfilling prophecy: You're depressed and being depressed, keeps you from not being depressed, if that makes sense. Likewise with anxiety, HAVING it makes it so hard to FIGHT it, and the anxiety, like depression and an eating disorder, has, as part of it's very demonstrated make-up, a self-preserving disease. The illness puts you at odds with healing, when it fights to continue that path it makes and wants to follow. For ME, the fact that my parents sort of gave-up on me getting better, as i had given up on myself. That's the toughest part, and i feel your pain and frustration, bc you can't fix it, ameliorate it, or even provoke your son to. BC your son is smart and aware, you should know he KNOWS you do care, in his clearer moments of clarity. The life you made and grew and nurtured is fading, and you cannot so easily save him from himself. I'm kind of rambling here,, You should know that my parents finally, in a Tough Love move, MADE me see a mental health specialist. I'm not sure where you live, your insurance coverage, or even if it's the right thing to do, but i'd see if you can schedule an appointment with his docs, though they might not see you, bc of the patient-doctor confidentiality clause, but you could ask a professional if maybe in-patient treatment is a best choice. My first time in an eating disorder unit, i was forced in. I fought it and them. The second time, i fought for ME. You can no more MAKE HIM get better, than MAKE HIM *WANT* to get better. Find a support group for people with family members w/ mental illnesses, and connect w/ other parents who are in your same shoes. There are MILLIONS of them, not that that's a comfort to you. It's sad and angering that YOU are effected by an illness you don't even have, and he cannot & will not fight to fix. What I WISHED MY parents told me in MY particular story, was that they LOVED me, wanted the best for me, and would have asked how they could help. But other than being there for me, they couldn't pick of the pieces of Humpty Dumpty me, and put me back together again. LIke a person's cancer requires an Oncologist, an emotionally ill person needs a head doctor. You can no more heal him than you can heal cancer. Know it's NOT a choice, though it SEEMS like he not getting out of bed IS his intentional choice : if he COULD chose, from the perspective of he wanting the best for himself, he'd do it. We have to accept sick people as where they are, not where we want them to be, as healed. Be kind. Be progressive and proactive. Ask. Tell. Find support and especially find some for YOU too.

Replying to my post:

I rambled, but hopefully you got something out of it. The hardest battle is within us. Thoughts and prayers out to you and your son. You're a good mother, person and i'm sure he knows that.

Thank you!

Dinodog41 your "rambling" was helpful to read. Reminding me what my son needs from me as a parent was what I needed to hear. I have him connected with a psychiatrist for meds and a therapist for figuring stuff out. He had gotten his head above water in the past year regarding the depression with some med changes and a good 6 months with the therapist. He accepts his depression and takes responsibility at least for taking his meds every day. He does know he is not living a healthy life but is unable to choose any differently right now.
I am sorry for your struggle; and am very appreciative for the wisdom you can share as a result.