What can I do if I am worried that my child may have an eating disorder?


What can I do if I am worried that my child may have an eating disorder?

If you are worried that your child may be developing an eating disorder or you think that they may already have one, we hope that this blog will provide you with some information and guidance that you may find helpful. 

Things to remember

One of the key things to remember is that any of us can develop an eating disorder no matter whether we are male or female, young or old or what ethnicity or backgrounds we come from. A second key thing to remember is that this is no one’s fault. Your child did not want or choose to develop an eating disorder nor did you, or your family cause your child to develop an eating disorder. 

Worrying that your child has an eating disorder can be a very difficult and confusing time for everyone, so you may find yourself feeling guilty for not having noticed that your child was becoming unwell. If this is the case, it is important to remember that secrecy is a big part of eating disorders. This makes it very hard to recognise when someone is starting to develop an eating disorder – even if you are very close to them.

Eating disorder for my child

Eating disorders develop and are maintained by what a person is thinking and feeling, so someone affected by an eating disorder is likely to be experiencing a lot of confusing and difficult emotions. Sometimes this may make your child say and do things that may be upsetting for you and others. If this happens, try to remember that this is the illness speaking, not your child. 

Finally, it is important to remember that because your child is unwell, they may not be able to recognise that anything is wrong. Sometimes, even if they do recognise that something is wrong, they may not realise how unwell they are. This is likely to be very difficult for you and other family members to witness. Particularly, if your child’s symptoms are worsening but they keep dismissing your concerns or angrily deny that there is a problem. If this does happen, it may be helpful to remember that this is the nature of the illness but there are many things that you can do to help your child.

What can I do?

The most helpful thing that you can do is to encourage and support your child to get help as soon as possible. Often, the most helpful way to approach this is to identify a suitable time and place to speak to your child when you are both relaxed. For example, when you are out for a  walk and you know that you will both be calm and comfortable and have plenty of time to speak without being interrupted. When speaking to them about your worries, aim to use a gentle tone and style and only mention a few of your concerns, so as not to overwhelm them. it is also often helpful to gently remind them that you love and care for them and so will support them through the whole process of getting help, so they don’t have to to do this alone. If they respond by denying any problems or by getting angry, remember that this is part of the illness.

If this happens, it can be helpful to provide them with some information about eating disorders for them to read in their own time and reassure them that you will be there to support them whenever they are ready to speak to you. In such situations, it is important to approach them again, without too much of a delay. This may be difficult to do but it is very important. Many of those who have sought treatment and recovered have all said that even though they really did not want their loved ones to talk to them about getting help, talking about their difficulties and getting help was the most important first step in their journey to recovery. 

We would like to end by saying that if you have concerns that your child may have an eating disorder, it is really important to speak to them about your concerns, encourage them to seek treatment without delay and support them to seek the care support and treatment that they need. 

Last but not least, if you believe that you may have an eating disorder, but you are afraid to seek help or are not sure that anyone can help you, please know that there are effective treatments that can help and that it is never too late – things can change. We urge you to seek help, although this may be scary and difficult, it could be the first step you take towards living the life you truly want.