National Eating Disorders Association

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getting past denial

Our daughter is 19. We realized she was having anorexic tendencies in November of 2013 (her senior year in HS and she had JUST turned 18). She is bright, intelligent, talented, funny and full of life. Has many friends, starred in school plays, a good student, etc. Her home life is stable and we love and support her. When we first discussed our concerns with her she assured us we were way off base and she was fine and could deal with it. We foolishly backed off for a few months.

We realized that she was sick as she continued to drop weight. She refused to see her pediatrician after she was told they were concerned that she was anorexic and insisted on switching doctors. We switched her to our doctor, who told her the same thing. She was at first scared and horrified and crying to hear this diagnosis but quickly dismissed it and wouldn't talk with us about it. She was uncooperative at the doctor and often refused to go to appointments. She became a raging, yelling, and controlling person that we barely recognized. She no longer enjoyed things she use to and she was avoiding seeing friends at times but was careful to keep up appearances and stay connected just enough.

We insisted she get into therapy before going off to college. Which she did. But because of her age, we have no idea if she discussed the eating disorder or not with her therapist. I believe she told her she had an OCD issue only. because she is an adult we are not allowed to ask and she definitely wouldn't let us know. She had/has to control everything! What we talk about, when we eat, what we eat, where we eat or she is a bear to be with and things get raging and we are too exhausted to fight it and give in.

She said once its not really an issue because she was still geting her periods. Although, I wonder if that was because she was on the pill and it was regulating things. could that be true?

Either way, she is now in college and each time we see her we know she isn't eating. She will only talk about her anxiety and not her eating disorder with us, although even that topic gets us in trouble with her. She refuses treatment or therapy and is extremely against any medications. (I think it also may be why she won't do therapy - afraid of meds).

Over break she finally confided in me that she is struggling with an eating disorder and that its like she is two people, one who doesn't care what others thinks and loves life and the other who can't stop thinking about food or not eating it. She noticed her friends noticing her situation and that scared her. She said it dictates what she does and influences whether she will hang with friends for fear they will want to go eat at the dining commons. I was so thrilled she was talking to me finally about it that I wanted to just listen and support her and didn't make any suggestions right away for fear she would back off.

Well, a few weeks later when we tried to talk with her about it, she acted like she hadn't even mentioned it to me, denying she had an issue or that we were making too much of it and she could handle it. She also lashed out saying," if you were so concerned, why didn't you do anything when I talked to you about it". This was devastating to me. I was trying to build trust and it back fired. Apparently, I don't know what to do for her or when to jump in. I can't stand seeing her so out of control but feel helpless to do anything meaningful for her. We aren't there daily at school to help and we can't insist on anything as she is an adult. Just sitting back and offering support has done nothing to date to get her to realize she needs help. I don't want this bright shining star of a girl to lose her way and change for ever. Any guidance on how we can get her to see that she needs help and recognize she has an issue? How do we talk about it with her when she immediately puts up an iron wall when we try?



You seem like an amazing parent, and your daughter seems like an incredible young woman. I'm so sorry to hear about her struggle, but I want you to know that things will get better. She clearly has dedicated parents who are willing to support her, and the fact that she confided in you shows that she is not in complete denial - it is normal to wax and wane about how serious your disorder is, because admitting it is scary. However, regardless of whether or not she thinks her issue warrants help right now, I strongly encourage you to keep on her to get help and face this problem. Could you visit her one weekend with the intention of an open conversation? Is there a college advisor or counseling center on her campus that you could contact for advice? I am concerned because your daughter seems to have an unhealthy attitude about how far she can push her body before her disorder becomes an issue, if she said that "its not really an issue because she was still geting her periods" - everyone's body works differently in this regard, with some women losing their periods early into the disorder and some women still menstruating after years of battling the disorder. I really think she would benefit from seeing a medical doctor who can explain this further, in addition to seeing a therapist that specializes in eating disorders.

Perhaps your daughter is overwhelmed with not knowing where to begin when it comes to getting help, especially because some treatment options probably seem intimidating. Do you think your daughter would be more receptive to treatment if you presented her with specific treatment options? If you call the NEDA helpline (Monday-Thursday from 9:00 am - 9:00 pm and Friday from 9:00 am - 5:00 pm (EST), at 1-800-931-2237) they can get you all sorts of information about the resources available close to your daughter's college and in her hometown. That way, instead of just telling her you think she needs to get help, you can present her with exact names of facilities/therapists/nutritionists/psychiatrists, etc. Even if she is angry with you to begin with, I want you to know that she will thank you someday (when she is a happy, healthy, recovered woman) that you did not give up on her despite her attitude. Stay strong. Your daughter needs you, and you are a brave and inspiring woman for being there for her.

Please continue to turn to the forums for support whenever you need support. I would love to hear what happens with your daughter on this crazy (but ultimately worthwhile) journey

thank you for your response.

thank you for your response. We tried visiting her last weekend with the idea of a discussion and she saw it coming and was incredibly anxious about seeing us so we low keyed it. But the minute we tried to discuss the idea of her getting help she walked out on us and then came back and said if we continue with this she will stop communicating all together. Now I know she was being dramatic but I also know a the same time that this illness has a strangle hold on her and it may make her do things like cut off ties, that she would normally never do. So we are nervous about even bringing it up. I would never give up on her but am confused as to how much to push, or how often to bring it up. I will definitely call NEDA for names and numbers so that the next time we do have the chance, I will have the info ready.
Recently she had strep and it went away with antibiotics but came back a week later. She went to her college health services and was given a stronger dose of medication. #1 I fear her ability to fight infections is low and #2 the medication is causing her to feel sick to her stomach even with a probiotic and so she doesn't want to eat. This panicked me because I know she didn't tell the school doc about her anorexia (I hope they wouldn't have prescribed such a strong nausea causing med, if she had). So I did a very bold thing and called them to let them know what she has been dealing with and encouraged them to reach out to her primary care back home for info on her. I begged them to keep it private and not let her know that I called them so that I didn't lose her trust. Was this the wrong way to handle it? I am so out of my element here. Thank you for your input.

one other thing

We did provide her with the names and phone numbers of therapists in her area when she went back after break and when she looked them up on line she was completely dismissive because she said none of them specialized in anxiety and only specialized in anorexia. This mad her livid. Of course they specialize in both and she is intelligent enough to know this but was made again that we were putting it out there that the problem was anorexia. She is a stubborn one!

I feell the same

I have just joined this Forum and find your Post. My situation is so similar to yours. Are you still interested in sharing experiences.

Hi one_day_at_the_time,

Hi one_day_at_the_time, welcome to the forums. I don’t know your current situation, but this is a great place for support and if you have a child suffering from an eating disorder, there are many valuable tools that NEDA offers for support. The Parent Tool Kit can give you guidance on how to support your loved one. You can find more information here:
Another tool are the NEDA Navigators and information can be found here:
The NEDA Helpline is available Monday-Thursday from 9AM to 9PM Eastern Time and Friday 9AM to 5PM to give additional support to you. I hope this provides you good information and support! Thanks for reaching out.

getting past denial

It has been a while since I posted to this site. I foolishly convinced myself that our daughter was getting better. She has only gotten better at hiding the anxiety from us. She is very careful not to eat more than a certain amount of food per day. She restricts what she will take in. More disturbing is her continued unwillingness to seek therapy. In fact, brining up the word creates a war. She is a new and different person who looks so troubled one minute and so together and with it the next, but consistently looks so sickly thin. This has now been 3 years. My husband and I decided to see a therapist about it for ourselves since she refuses. We are hoping to suggest family therapy to our daughter in hopes it will help- but we don't expect her to agree.
I feel like I have become her emotional punching bag and that I can do nothing right. She goes from acting like a well adjusted happy person with her friends to being an emotional bully to me. She is verbally aggressive and pushy and never accepts an answer I give about anything if it isn't what she wants to hear. It is exhausting to be with her. I don't sleep at night because I am so sad for her and desperately want her to get help. I have thought that I need to distance myself from her to protect myself emotionally but worry that no one else will try to help her by being honest with her about this. Lord knows, I have to pretend all the time that there "isn't a problem" just to enjoy life with her. But each hour, day, week, month and year that goes by is so very damaging to everything and everyone but mostly her.

Hi tipper,

Hi tipper,

It sounds like your family is going through a lot right now. I wish I had more answers for you. The choice with recovery is ultimately up to your daughter, but being supportive and caring is so meaningful and important. I think that with everything you're going through, seeing a therapist might be really helpful for you.

I can tell that you love and care about your daughter very much. You're trying your best to be supportive and loving in an incredibly difficult situation, and I think that is something that will help in time. I will be thinking about you and sending you my best wishes.

My husband and I have been

My husband and I have been seeing a therapist who has given us the strength to address this with our daughter with honesty and consistency. We wrote her a heartfelt letter of 6 pages letting her know how we feel and that we will fight for her recovery and support her no matter what but that we would no longer pretend she wasn't anorexic and we would no longer ignore the issue. We let her know we insist that she see a physician and we attend only the first meeting and that she also attend therapy once per week. She somewhat agreed but refuses to allow us to attend first meeting and insists she will do this on her own and that it is her problem and not ours. We told her if she had cancer we would never send her off to deal with this alone and we won't for this. Was that wrong to insist we attend the first meeting with both therapist and physician? We don't trust she will share all of the issues and be upfront with them. We want to be a part of the process and feel we won't get the full picture from her. We also pulled the financial card...something we told ourselves we wouldn't do but its been 3 years and she hasn't made any progress that has stuck for more than a couple months. We told her she must see a therapist weekly and a physician or we will no longer pay for phone, car and schooling. Was this wrong? I need to know if we are on the right path or making it worse. please be honest and blunt - we need to know. thank you!!!

getting past denial

dear tipper
i am new to this site and i wonder if you are still struggling and interested in talking.
i have a 20 year old in the EXACT same place as your daughter is, except for ours it has been 5 year. same denial, same rage, same desperate confusion on our part. before i write more i wanted to see if you are still around on this site.

thank you.

Doing the best you can

Hi Tipper

I just wanted to comment and say you and your husband are really such dedicated and wonderful parents. And it must be a really hard and difficult thing for you to see your daughter doing this to herself, especially as her parents when you see she has so much potential.

I'm curious, what did the therapist say about you going to the first session? Because as the therapist, he/she should be able to advise you not just in the Eating Disorder treatment but also family dynamics and how you should be helping your daughter and how you can play a part.

Also, If you can give financial support to your daughter then she is very lucky and good for you and her! To be honest, I put myself through school and its taught me a lot about independence and not having to rely on anyone. But when I was going through my hardest days, it was doubly tough because I didn't have the financial support. If you take it away (negative reinforcement) she may feel like you don't care for her at all and I don't think thats what you want. At the same time, losing your financial support could be a first step to personal responsibility.

We can't really advise here, and the truth is, as you know, this situation is so fine, that there really isn't a 'right' or 'wrong' way. I think you can only do the best that you can, for yourself and your daughter, and have faith that it will get better, even if you have no idea what is going to happen next.

Good luck!!

Doing the best you can

Our therapist has recommend that we find our daughter a therapist who also does family therapy and anorexia. She feels that someone with that experience will instinctively know the importance of our involvement of at least the first visit or at minimum email communication from us to the therapist for updates/insight. We are trying to get our daughter to agree to family therapy as well, but she refuses and insists its her issue. We believe that the real concern she has is that she will have to face truths she isn't ready to face. She hasn't shared with any of her friends at college that she has an eating disorder (which is sad - she lives a false life in front of them). When we asked if they were aware all she said was that they would tell us that she eats three meals a day with them at the dining commons. We let her know that we will not back down on seeing the therapist once per week and the physician for the anorexia. She seems as though she will do it, however once she goes back to school - all bets are off and we have no control over what happens which is why we pulled the financial card. She knows we can't control what happens while she is at school, but if we are informed that appointments have been missed then we are aware of what is / isn't happening.
I too put myself through school and it took me 6 years of working part time and going to school part time. It taught me so more than any college education could have and I sometimes feel as though we do too much for our kids and that they are missing that valuable lesson. But then I also remember how hard it was financially for me. Hard to know the right thing to do.
Bottom line is that she hasn't admitted to herself yet the extent of her issues and if she isn't sharing it with the people she is closest to, then she isnt' living a very authentic life and that must be soo heavy and hard for her. I want her to get past this and to be healthy and happy and have meaningful lasting open and honest relationships in the future. But first she must have an open and honest relationship with herself.

Wonderful Parents

Hi Tipper,

I can only imagine how difficult this situation must be. I can tell from your posts how much you guys care for your daughter and how deeply you want to get her help. As previous posters have mentioned, there is no right or wrong way and the best you can do is continue offering your support and unconditional love. She may be continuously resisting right now but these illnesses can be very difficult for the individual and it is up to her to accept your help and resources. I hope she comes around soon and accepts seeing therapy as I know it'll be helpful for everyone. I will keep you and your family in my thoughts. I wish you all the best and keep pushing, we can get through this! Good luck, and I hope you have a good day.


Continued Denial

I am also new to this forum. I have a 22 year old daughter in college who is still very much in denial. She experiences somatic stomach pain with her disorder and tries to convince herself that she has a rare stomach disorder rather than taking ownership of the illness. This has been going on for 3+ years now and is so sad for us to see her in this place. She does get therapy and nutritional support which helps. She has made some small steps but it is not without a lot of ups and downs.
Not sure when acceptance overtakes the denial in this very long road. Would love to join this forum of support for parents. It is a
very long and isolated road. We do get support but joining other parents going through this would be great!

continued denial

Hi Gazelle1
it is a long and lonely road. my daughter is 20 and struggling with anorexia for a while now - in denial and believing she has a stomach disorder at the root of the whole thing. i was losing my mind and going crazy asking myself "what i am i supposed to do to help!!???" so now i am getting more help with my own new therapist who understands and treats anorexia. i have been told by experts that while we cannot control if and when our daughters will come out of denial and start addressing their disease, we cannot control their thoughts and ideas about what is going on inside of them,what we CAN do is use our LEVERAGE as their support system and their loving parents to influence their BEHAVIOR. in our case, we are still the sole financial support for our daughters education and basically everything so we are setting strict boundaries, with the help of her doctor, around what weight she has to achieve in order to be allowed to stay in school. this is very hard to do for us - to stay strong and set boundaries with a daughter who is so willful and strong in her own way - so we need help and support in sticking to it. but i believe it is helping a lot. it is not influencing her thoughts and ideas about her disease but she IS gaining weight because she WANTS to stay in college. she is extremely angry with me and not talking to to me right now but the experts say -- if you save her life and she is angry at you for a long long time wouldn't you want that?. my answer is yes.
so setting boundaries with something your daughter really wants and values such as college or maybe a sport or activity or trip or whatever she really wants , and sticking to the boundaries which is very hard and requires support, is the only influence we have over the ED right now and we are going to capitalize on that as long as we have that. my daughters doctor says to her -- if you want to be in college you have to be healthy, if you want to do that sport you have to be healthy, if you want to go abroad for junior year you have to be healthy, etc. it may feel cruel to withhold something your daughter wants from her but it is not cruel because the reason you are doing it is that you are trying to fight the incredibly strong and loud ED voice in her head, that is not your daughter. you are doing it only to help your daughter get healthy.
keep on struggling and looking for help.
maybe one day we can share stories of recovery.