National Eating Disorders Association

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How do I take control of my adult daughter with anorexia

My 21 year old daughter was diagnosed with anorexia last year and she entered an excellent residential program. After 2 months of treatment, we learned that she was also suffering from PTSD which couldn't be treated in her current program so she was sent for PTSD therapy for 2 weeks and then went back to the ED program. Two weeks later the PTSD was so bad that she couldn't eat anything or drink water and now she is at an inpatient facility due primarily to heart issues.

Multiple people from all 3 facilities are now telling me that she is using her PTSD to continue with her ED and that I need to take control and be firm but I don't know how to make that work if I can't force her to do what I want her to do. How do I respond to her when she calls me and says she is going to come home and go back to school or that all the programs are the same or she knows she will die from her disease but she doesn't care?

I feel that my girl is behind the disease and the fact that she calls me every day leads me to believe that she is begging me to help her but the disease has full control. We have great facilities (she is in one of the best right now) and programs available but I need help figuring out how to keep her in a program and participate in her recovery until she has the strength to speak for herself.

By the way, she is expecting me to check her out of the hospital on Monday.



I'm really sorry to hear about your daughter's struggles with anorexia. I agree with you that her daily calls seem like a sign that deep down she does want to recover, however someone who says "she knows she will die from her disease but she doesn't care" needs additional professional help. Please continue to encourage her to receive treatment (whether inpatient or outpatient), and if she does go back to school, make sure that there is a therapist and doctor that she is seeing there. While she may be 21 and technically an adult, people suffering with eating disorders have a hard time making decisions rationally. Sometimes "tough love" is necessary to get through to eating disorder sufferers. Make sure that your daughter knows that you love her and support her recovery, but also let her know that you don't support her mindset that "she knows she will die from her disease but she doesn't care" - you support her as long as she is working hard, with professional help, to fight this disorder.

If you need more info about eating disorder treatment options in your area (or in the area where your daughter's school is), the NEDA helpline can provide you with all sorts of information about what's available (Monday-Thursday from 9:00 am - 9:00 pm and Friday from 9:00 am - 5:00 pm (EST), at 1-800-931-2237)

I also really encourage you to make sure that all of your own mental/emotional/physical needs are being taken care of throughout this challenging time. Taking care of yourself FIRST will optimize your ability to serve as a support system for your daughter. Do things you love and consider seeing a therapist yourself. You deserve to be happy and healthy as well :)

Wishing you and your daughter all the strength in the world!

Daughter doesn't want to get better

I could have written that myself, Hannahls. I hope your daughter's situation has changed. My daughter knows we love her and support her, but she doesn't want to fight to get better. She says she has given up and nothing matters anymore. She is in residential for the third time and her weight has been restored, but she is terribly depressed and has thoughts of suicide. Does anyone know how to give encouragement and hope to those who won't accept it or see it for themselves? No medication seems to reach the depression. We feel so helpless.

Sorry to hear that you're

Sorry to hear that you're having such rough time of it. I'm glad that your daughter is receiving help though. I haven't dealt with anything similar but I have managed to find some resources that NEDA has. Take a look if you please:
1-800-931-2237 is NEDA's helpline. Trained volunteers are available Mon-Thurs 9:00-9:00 as well as on Friday. They might be able to give you some tips or refer you to more resources.

Best of luck

Hi coomar4563

Hi coomar4563
I am so sorry to hear about your daughter. I have a 16 year old daughter who has ED, PTSD, and attachment disorder. She was adopted at age 11. I also have a son, her brother, that was adopted at age 6 who has PTSD. With my daughter, she has suppressed a lot of her past, it was just too much. Her eating disorder was getting very scary, we felt like her past and her PTSD was causing the ED to worsen. So we decided to work on getting her to deal with her past (with a councilor trained in childhood trauma)t, it did not work. Her eating disorder continued to get worst. We got her into a center for ED. There she was able to get a councilor who helped her, not only with the eating disorder, but also with getting her to see that she has power over a lot of things. She has been out of the center for several months, and has continued to see her same councilor from the center, that has helped greatly.
From my experience with having two kids with PTSD, I have discovered that they see things differently, their minds are wired differently I have learned this from going to meetings and talking to councilors. There is hope.They have both come a long way from where they started. I have had to set firm boundaries, and that has made a big difference. Also there are certain things that trigger their PTSD. With my son, we have found a breathing technique that will immediately calm him down. With my daughter it is talking, if she can talk and not shut people out, that helps her the most. We have also been able to find out what some of their triggers are. With my son, we stay away from those triggers. With my daughter she does better as she is around her triggers more and she realizes that she is okay.
My daughter is doing well. She has been able to maintain her weight, connect more with people, and has found ways to deal with her PTSD more. She still has years of hard work ahead of her, yet she is on the right path. There is hope.
Please take care of yourself.

Be firm

I know it sounds harsh. You want to believe your daughter. But the tough love truth to you is she most likely is manipulating you to get what ED wants.

The one thing I learned from the 12 years of parenting an ED daughter is to question if I am being manipulated or is this really a cry for help. Is your daughter trying to get out of the hospital so she can go back to her ED ways? If she wants to get better, she will stay. I suspect she is using your heart as a way to escape.

Think of ED as an abusive spouse. He wants control of your daughter and she will comply to make him happy. One way ED works is to use your love (and guilt) as a tool in order to get your daughter discharged. Once discharged, he is in control again. Listen to the staff. I didn't and let my daughter leave 3 residential facilities against medical advice. I have many regrets about my actions, but not listening to the staff recommendations is high on that list.

I know this sounds heartless, and I probably wouldn't have taken my advice back then. In retrospect, I was so wrong.