National Eating Disorders Association

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Son won't go to therapy

Our son is an older teenager who was diagnosed with Anorexia.
He was hospitalized for a week recently because of this eating disorder.

Since the time he left the hospital, we can get him to go to some of the appointments related to his treatment:
-monthly appointment with the medical doctor who is treating him for the eating disorder
-monthly mental health appointment for the management of medication he is taking to help with the eating disorder

However, we have not been able to get him to commit to seeing a therapist who specializes in the treatment of eating disorders.

Do we have to take things away from him, such as the car, in order to make him go to the therapist?
Is this the only option we have?


Hi Stuart1,
How old is your son? It is so hard to see them suffer and to be so worried about their health. It can also be frustrating when there are things that could help them get better and they don't want to do it.
I will tell you about our journey with ED. Each person's journey is a bit different and what has worked for us may or may not be what will work for your son and for your family. It is important to realize that this journey is not just your sons. It is yours and any other family member or friend that is close to your son. It is so easy to get consumed around the ED and the person who has it. Eating disorders are very scary and serious.
My daughter was adopted from foster care at the age of 11. Around age 12 she told me that she would sometimes make herself throw up. When we talked to her family doctor, she weighed my daughter and was not worried and told her some things to eat. I look back now and realize it would have been wise to get her into another doctor. At age 15 my daughter was not the happy, social, optimistic person she had been. She limited herself to less than 10 foods that she would eat. I just wanted her to eat something. During the day she would limit her food. At night after I went to bed she would binge and purge. She got to the point that she would get very dizzy, she was pale, angry, not thinking logically, scared, depressed, isolated, and she could not lift very heavy things. We realized that it had gotten very scary. Each day our goal was to keep her alive. I would wake up in the morning, scared at times to see if she had made it through the night. I took her to a new doctor. She not only checked her weight she did blood work and checked her heart. She told me that we needed to get her into a center for ED. That was so terrifying, for both of us. We were able to get her in within a few weeks. I was amazed at some of the rules they had. No jumping up and down, no picking at your skin (self harm), someone checking their toilet before it was flushed, if rules were not kept more privileges were taken away. When they did well they received more privileges. While there my daughter started eating again all kinds of foods. Her brain started working better, she started laughing and smiling again. She still struggled a lot, She came home and she was on a zone plan. For my daughter it has made a lot of difference. when she got home she needed to be in my line of sight, she was not allowed in the kitchen, I plated her food, she could not go to friends houses, and she was not left at home alone. She got more privileges as she went to doctor's appointments, ate all her food, treated us with respect,was truthful and used the skills she was being taught. She has been home 19 months and we still use the zone plan. Usually she is on the highest level of the plan, but if she self harms or loses weight she is put down to a lower zone. On the highest level of zones, she can drive a car, cook, plate her own food, eat out with friends, go to friends houses, get a job. She has told me that it has made a big difference to have the zones. She now has a list of 5 things that she does not have to eat, otherwise she eats everything else. She has maintained her weight and she is using a lot of skills to help her with stress and making choices. There are ups and downs, that is how ED works. I am so proud of my daughter. For her she needed structure, privileges and consequences.
You know your son and you will know what works best.
How are you doing? I hope okay. I did not do so well for a while there it is so heartbreaking, overwhelming and stressful. I hope that you can take care of yourself. I also went to my own councilor and it helped me out a lot.

Keep trying

That was our concern with our son who was much older. You can't force them when they are in control of their own destiny. Our son was also hospitalized for one week and he thought he could do it on his own. He was so wrong. Learn everything you can and keep the lines of communication open. Keep talking to him. After several more trips to the ER, and doctors being concerned about his heart and his BP along with one particularly scary episode, he finally made the decision to take treatment.
Is there someone else who can influence him? People have to be ready to make the change and challenge the fears. I hope that he comes around to that conclusion soon. All the best.

How is current treatment working?

I meant to ask how the current treatment is working? Has he stabilized? Is he starting to recover? That is the main goal, and if it is working that is important