National Eating Disorders Association

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How to help 19 yr old son

I am unsure of how to help my son manage his ED. He is taking depression medicine from his Ph.D. to address depression and anxiety, but only if I or his girlfriend give it to him. He has been at an anorexic weight for years on and off. It has gotten much worse this past year and it is very scary. He went to an MD and has undergone many tests. He told me that he is afraid for himself. He will go days sometimes without eating eating or drinking anything. He eats better and more often if I make food for him and encourage him to eat. But if he refuses, I have learned to accept he no and put the food away and tell him it's in the fridge if he wants it later. Sometimes I live with him, and sometimes I live with my husband I've been separated from on and off for awhile. He eats better when I live with him. Some people advise me not to "enable" his ED by living with him or making food for him. But it is heartbreaking to come see him lying in his bed starving himself and having him alternate between raging at me and crying in my arms. I've heard his stomach growl and him lie in bed and say he isn't hungry and refuse to eat after no food for a day or more. He has also told me through tears that he misses food before. Please give me some advise. I don't understand what is helping vs over helping / enabling when it comes to ED. Is there such a thing as enabling when it comes to an ED? I understand about enabling regarding drug addiction/alcoholism, but this ED illness seems different type of illness. Is it a type of addiction? Please help!

re: How to help 19 yr old son

Hey cdauphne—welcome to the forums and I’m so sorry to hear you and your son are struggling. I saw that birdie22 gave you the number of the NEDA helpline, which is great—they can offer some advice and point you in the direction of resources in your community that may be helpful to you. I also wanted to share a link to NEDA’s parent toolkit, which is a good place to start when you’re at a loss regarding how to help a child or other loved one who is suffering from an ED:

I also just wanted to remind you to take care of yourself. Your mental health is just as important as your son’s. You’re doing a great thing seeking help for him, so try to be kind to yourself throughout this process, too. Thinking of you—I hope you continue finding support on the forums!

How to help 19 yr old son

I am not a professional, but I think if you are helping him and he's eating your food that is not enabling him. That is actually pretty great! He's only 19 and that is still young. It does sound like he has some desire to get better too. My daughter is nearly 19 and we feel she is nowhere near ready to give it up, but we tell her constantly that we are not giving up. She has said "I will never get well", but she hasn't hit her 20's yet. Maturity, a better fed mind and trying to get that depression under control is the start to better things. It just is so frustrating waiting for those things to happen. I wish you lots of luck and send you hugs.