National Eating Disorders Association

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Need support with initial overwhelm

Hi, I'm new to this forum. Just learned last week that my daughter (age 19, first year in college) has orthorexia. She came home for break looking not underweight but malnourished (which blood tests confirmed), and I am just so overwhelmed and grieved that she has a serious eating disorder. Her dad and I have rallied to get her to the doctor, and tomorrow she has an intake with ERC, but, like many of you I'm sure, I didn't see this coming. She was always healthy, confident, social, athletic, and in the last 3 months she has become someone I don't recognize. I am so sad and overwhelmed for her, and I wonder if any of you could share with me what those first days/weeks were like and how you managed your own stress in the process. I need to stay strong and healthy for her, but I am really struggling. Thank you.

My heart goes out to you

Hi Momhanginginthere,

I am really sorry to hear about your daughter. I can only imagine how difficult this can be as you only want the best for your daughter and seeing her struggle can be a worst nightmare. I am glad to hear she is accepting your offer to help and that you and your husband will be taking her to the doctor and help she needs. She will need the unconditional love and support as this disorder can be difficult and have many obstacles. Your daughter is lucky to have such helpful and supportive parents. If you need anymore resources you can contact the NEDA helpline, and they will guide you to resources in your area. They can be contacted M-Th 9AM-9PM F9AM-5PM at 1-800-931-2237. Hang in there, things will get better, stay strong and take everything day by day. Don't forget to nourish yourself as well, your well-being is important for yourself and your family. Good luck, keep us posted on how things are going, I am sending you my best wishes for you and your family.


Hi Momhanginginthere,

Welcome to the forums! Thank you for sharing some of your family's story with us.

In a situation like this, feeling overwhelmed is completely understandable. Please know that you're already taking so many great steps to help your daughter--you're clearly a thoughtful, determined parent. It's such great news to hear that your husband is working with you and that your daughter is listening and is willing to see a professional.

Starting college is a huge adjustment for everyone, and I don't think it's uncommon for people to develop eating disorders and other mental health issues around that transitional period of life. It's additionally hard when children are away from home for the first time and parents aren't able to keep as close of an eye on them as in the past. This can make changes in their health seem even more drastic and surprising.

I can speak from personal experience when I recall how overwhelming it was when my sister was first diagnosed with an ED. It came as a total surprise to me--my parents were the ones who figured it out. I remember feeling like there was so much upheaval in the house when my sister started outpatient, and then inpatient treatment. I think one thing that's important is not to forget about yourself: your health and well-being are important, too. It can be easy to get caught up in taking care of your loved one who is sick, but eating disorders (unfortunately) can take a toll on the whole family. Try to take time for yourself, because you matter, too. If you feel like you might benefit from seeing a professional (a therapist, counselor, psychologist, etc.), to work through your stress or get advice for how to manage the situation, don't be afraid to do so. Your daughter's treatment center might have family therapy as part of their plan, so you can take advantage of that as well.

You've already found a great resource in NEDA. The forums here provide a lot of support, even when you just need a listening ear. Other great resources on the NEDA site include the Parent Toolkit (, and the NEDA Stories of Hope ( I firmly believe that knowledge is power, and the NEDA site has so many great pages of information to look through. I know I tried to learn all I could about eating disorders when my sister was diagnosed, and my parents did the same thing. I think we all felt better when we had a better understanding of what was going on.

I hope this helps! Please let us know if we can answer other questions for you. I hope you'll continue to post here and keep us updated. We're here for you. Good luck to you and to your family. <3

Oh can I relate. We just

Oh can I relate. We just brought our daughter home yesterday from her freshmen year at school and we all feel overwhelmed and not prepared to deal with this. Does your daughter want help? I do think that is so important. My daughter was the one who said she thought she should come home because she couldn't deal with it all there but she wants to get back to school. The hardest part is trying to convince them they are strong and not a failure. This is the harder thing to do. To face it head on and kick its butt before it gets worse. Then they can enjoy their life and be stronger and healthier when they return. It is all so overwhelming. I have been reading a lot of books and that has helped.
All we can do is love them. Be there for them. You are doing the right thing. The hard thing but the right thing. Just remember that.