National Eating Disorders Association

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What can I do???

My daughter who is 19 was recently diagnosed as malnourished and with an eating disorder (anorexia). She is away at college and originally decided to go vegetarian. She lost a lot of weight in three months and is running 5-6 miles a day. She has admitted that she will not allow herself to eat more than a certain number of calories a day because she is afraid to gain weight. The doctor has asked her to try to add a few more calories a week until she reaches his recommended number per day and to go to counseling. Both of which she will not do. She insists that she does not have an eating disorder because she is still above a certain weight and that she is eating healthy food-so that there is nothing to worry about.

She is easily agitated now and I have noticed a lot of depression. She never goes out-she only studies and "pins" recipes on Pinterest.

Is there anyone out there with advice??? I am just at a loss...

I know it's hard

I'm sorry to hear what you and your daughter are going through. Everything you talk about - the denial, agitation, depression, obsession with calories/food- is typical with an eating disorder. And her doctor is right - she should talk to someone about what is going on.

A good place for you to start is reading NEDA's Parent Toolkit:
It can help you navigate what your daughter is going through and how to best keep the relationship positive between the two of you. Because she is over the age of 18, you can't legally force her into treatment, but that does not mean you can't help her get there!

Have you thought about trying to get her to speak with a therapist about her depression or agitation, as opposed to her eating disorder? If she's not too far away, maybe you can ask her if you can come to visit her and see a therapist together? The best thing you can do for her at this point is let her know you love her, support her and are on her side. I know it can be very frustrating to communicate with someone suffering from an eating disorder if you have never had one, but try not to let her hear that frustration or anger. She needs understanding and empathy.

To get her to see that she may actually have an eating disorder, send her these links:

Maybe if she sees for herself that she has symptoms of anorexia she will be more inclined to believe it (no guarantee though - denial is a symptom that is held on to pretty tightly).

Also, please feel free to call the NEDA helpline at 1-800-931-2237 M-F, 9am-5pm EST to discuss more options for helping your daughter. I know it may seem like there isn't much you can do, but that's not true!