National Eating Disorders Association

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New Here: 15 y/o Son

Hi. I've recently acknowledged my 15 year old son is experiencing ED issues and has been for since at least last December. I've always described him as 'a horse of a different color' and believe that all his differences and issues have now manifested into an ED. He's dealt with a crazy-amount in his young life - very severe speech apraxia and sensory integration dysfunction (which he was in a multitude of therapies to learn to accommodate and for the most part - successfully has), he has never had friends or a peer group, he has dealt with depression and anxiety for many years (his father worked through 2 years of cancer treatments and it turned our house upside down from ages 8-10), this past year (November, 2016-July, 2017) saw many critical and emergency surgeries again for dad (consequences of chemo) so there was more household and personal stress for him, puberty and all the changes that entails, entering high school, being a competitive wrestler (I know, I know but he's never been forced to cut or maintain weight), typical teen angst, still a bedwetter, lonely without friends, has a terrible and hateful relationship with his brother (age 16 - he's only about 40% of the problem) but gets along with his sister (also 16). He tolerates me (mom) in a typical teen way and is extremely attached to dad. He's sensitive, intuitive, intelligent, and has a wicked sense of humor. In the last 4-6 months he's further isolated himself, put more pressure on his schoolwork (all honors and AP courses, by his choice), zero social interaction (incl. social media, texting, and in-person). In May we noticed he pulled way back on eating, 100% restricted anything sweet and junk-food, will eat only a specific fruit for lunch and then eat a GIGANTIC amount of dinner (almost in a binge way, like he's eating a day's worth of calories in one sitting), not drinking outside of his dinner meal. He claims he is neither hungry nor thirsty but he's 'hangry' all the time.

He had his annual physical with the pediatrician last week and weighed in 4 pounds lighter than in March (his last wrestling weigh in) yet he's grown taller, making him appear even lankier than in the past. The ped ran a urinalysis (to rule out a low level infection lurking in his bladder, kidneys, ureters, causing the bedwetting) and rand a large number of blood tests. This was all precipitated by a multitude of swollen glands throughout his groin with no other symptoms.) Test results included: dehydration, protein in urine, low level of vitamin d. Ped recommended a vit d supplement, more hydration, and a repeat UA in a week to make sure the protein in the urine was due to the dehydration and not an overall kidney issue (this test will occur this week.) We are also seeing a Urologist this week to do a physical eval and likely meds to cure the bedwetting issue. He also encouraged me to find him a therapist. Since this all came to light this past Tuesday, my husband and I have noticed he is refusing to really hydrate, he is spitting spit into water bottles (claims it feels weird in his mouth and he can't swallow it), he doesn't look healthy, has no vim or vigor, is overly irritated by his brother and me, and is really depressed. Together my husband and I approached him with our concerns for his well-being, both physical and emotional. We explained to him we would be researching and finding a therapist for him to speak with. He was cooperative and agreed that he would make the effort to talk with someone. The next day, after spending countless hours trying to find an appropriate therapist through our insurance, I decided to go forward and contact the ED Clinic in our local hospital for recommendations. I did a phone in-take and was told he is a candidate to be seen by their team - adolescent medicine, psych, social work, etc. however, the first availability isn't until August 16. I made peace with needing to wait 3 weeks because he's not in severe crisis - not purging, not self-harming, etc We again spoke with him to tell him we are moving forward, its a team of doctors, its time to figure out how to help him, etc. He angrily told us he doesn't need therapy and for the last 3 days has been angrier than normal towards me, almost refusing to drink water even though he knows the importance, etc.

My husband has been supportive but considers me an alarmist (however his attitude is so laid back and wait & see with everything that it makes me mental!) My husband agrees there's a problem but I am certain he believes there's a magic pill and 3 visits with a therapist and *poof*, our son will be fine. While we both believe our son will be diagnosed ED, I know my husband thinks it will be a "paper diagnosis" the dr gives insurance in order to obtain coverage, and that he's really ONLY depressed (hence, a magic pill will make it better.) Me? I think this is 15 years of sensory, social, & emotional issues combined with anxiety, fears, lonliness, and depression all wrapped up together and finally manifesting into the control of an ED. Its taken him 15 years to get to this point of despair - I know its going to take years of therapy and work to get him to acknowledge and accommodate, and work through these issues as he matures and makes the decision to live a healthy life.

I'm angry, scared, confused, and mostly I am sad. So. Sad. I'm sad for my son and all he's going to go through. I'm sad for my other two children and how this news and work is going to affect them. I'm sad for my husband and our marriage because he's going to blow off alot of what needs to be done and I'll be the nagging task-master and bad-guy, pushing it through (like normal.) But mostly I'm sad for me, which is so selfish but true. This burden is going to fall on me - the scheduling, the driving, the appointments, the paperwork, the financial burdens, the worries, the up-ending my own life to take care of his all while running our house and marriage and parenting 2 other diverse and challenging teens through school and life.

So for the next 17 days I wait. I cannot help but over-watch my son and analyze his every morsel of food, drop of water, minute of sleep, conversation, and attitude. I'm holding it together, making the effort not to be an alarmist, not to snap at my husband, be patient with my other kids' and their needs. I will find time for myself and try to take care of me, just a little bit!

Thank you for reading my ramble. Its the first I've written it all out and explained it to anyone other than my husband. I'm learning more all the time and look forward to eventually being able to help another sad parent.

Post Edited

Hi Christina8898, welcome to the forums and thank you for reaching out! I just wanted to let you know that your post has been edited to remove any food-related words as they might be triggering to some members of the forum. Please keep posting and sharing while following the forum guidelines which can be found here:

re: New Here: 15 y/o Son

Hi christina8898--first of all, welcome to the forums! We're so glad you found us here and that you're reaching out for support. This is a great community full of people who have experienced some version of what you've described and I'm confident there will be plenty of parents who can relate.

I'm not a parent myself, but I'm an ED survivor, and I mostly wanted to let you know that I read your post, you're definitely not alone, and we're here for you. A lot of what you wrote here makes me cringe at what my own parents must have dealt with when I was a teenager--I was a pretty sullen, angry kid in high school and I was dealing with a host of mental health issues too, but of course it never occurred to me that my parents might be suffering too! Yikes. Wouldn't be that age again if you paid me and I'm not 100% sure I'd do a good job raising someone who is, either. You're a harder woman than I. :)

I also had to chuckle at the bad guy stuff--it's always the moms who end up playing that role, isn't it? I notice this in media all the time and it was the same way at my house growing up. It took me a long time to take my dad down from that pedestal he was on in my head. The good news, though, is that maybe your son sees him as an ally in all this (I know that's MONUMENTALLY frustrating for you, the person who's holding all the shit together, but perhaps it'll result in a little good cop/bad cop progress for your kid?).

Anyway, unfortunately I don't have a lot of advice to offer, because it sounds like you're already doing everything right. In the meantime, all you can do is try to become the best support system possible--someone your son feels like he can trust. Have you checked out any of the resources available on the NEDA website? They've got some good stuff that could provide some guidance as to what to say, what not to say, etc.--always best to be informed when you can (and might be another way to rope your husband into pulling his weight!):

Parent Toolkit ( incredible resource for anyone who's trying to support someone suffering from an ED

General information about EDs:

ED-specific information:

Big list of links to resources that fall under the topic “how to help”--I suggest focusing on the Family, Friends and Caregivers section:

NEDA blog ( really great resource for stories of hope—not just for sufferers but loved ones too

NEDA Helpline ( have you tried contacting the volunteers at NEDA, whether by phone or online chat? They can provide specific answers to some of your questions and they can also be a good shoulder to lean on when you just need a live body to talk to.

Please keep us posted on what's going on with your son. And never lose hope—I'm four years into full recovery and I never would have imagined that was possible five years ago. No matter what happens, we're always here to listen if you need to vent!!