No parent wants to discover that their child is diagnosed with an eating disorder. Eating disorders are very misunderstood, and often stigmatized and under-treated as a result. Up until very recently, parents were sometimes kept out of treatment, based on the misguided assumption that the eating disorder was the parents’ fault, and therefore parents should just “stay out of it.”
Today we know that when a child is diagnosed with an eating disorder, parents have tremendous potential to help the process of recovering. We recognize that for the vast majority of parents who have a child who is diagnosed with an eating disorder, the parents are loving and well-meaning. The child’s genetics, life experiences, and environment have all worked together in a perfect storm to create the eating disorder as a maladaptive coping mechanism. Of course, parents and all family members are part of the child’s environment, so we can definitely look at how our behavior, often subconscious, impacts the environment.
Almost every parent is capable of making a significant impact on their child’s eating disorder treatment. This is not easy – it requires some fairly important shifts in the way you approach parenting – but it is entirely possible and within your reach.
About Eating Disorders
Eating disorders are complex. While the symptoms are fairly simple (e.g. starving, binge eating, purging), they involve complex subconscious beliefs and mental systems that drive the behaviors. Treatment must involve careful analysis and understanding of both the presenting behaviors and the underlying psychological drivers.
Eating Disorder Treatment
Eating disorders have the highest rate of death from any mental illness. However, the vast majority of people who have eating disorders are able to achieve full recovery. Treating eating disorders is complex, and it is best to seek a treatment provider who is highly-qualified and has many years of experience treating eating disorders. Many times, eating disorder treatment is multi-disciplinary and involves professionals from multiple fields.
Co-Occurring Conditions With Eating Disorders
Eating disorders commonly occur with other mental health conditions, most notably anxiety, depression, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Co-occurring conditions can make eating disorder treatment more challenging, but providers who are experienced in working with people presenting multiple conditions can support a person in finding full recovery from an eating disorder.
Creative Treatments for Eating Disorders
Because eating disorders are complex and because each person recovers from their eating disorder in a unique way, there are many creative adjunct treatments for eating disorders. From getting a dog to practicing yoga, many people find that creative treatments that help depression and anxiety are also helpful in eating disorder recovery.