Helping Someone With Anorexia
Helping Someone With Anorexia
Divya Kakaiya (Program Founder and Clinical Supervisor) gives expert video advice on: What should I do if I suspect my daughter or son is anorexic?; What shouldn't I do if I suspect my daughter or son is anorexic?; What should I do if I suspect my friend is anorexic? and more...
What should I do if I suspect my daughter or son is anorexic?
Trust your intuition, and trust your gut. Go talk to an eating disorder professional, privately if you need to do that, confidentiality first. However, I would say that do it fairly soon - get that person into treatment.
What shouldn't I do if I suspect my daughter or son is anorexic?
Try to force them to eat ... wrong thing to do! If you want the anorexia to get bigger and uglier and more intense, force feeding them. What you shouldn't do is be in their face about the eating disorder, like really confront them ... "I think you have anorexia! You are lying! What are you doing in your room!" As soon as you become more controlling and more over-powering, the anorexia gets more intense, so your goal needs to be to come from a real compassionate place where you can say, "Hey hon! You know, I'm noticing that no matter how much exercise you do, it just doesn't seem like it's enough, and can you tell me what might be going on for you to where you're feeling that you need to be exercising so much."
What should I do if I suspect my friend is anorexic?
I think the same thing, I think if you have a friend who's anorexic, what you really want to be able to do, if you want to talk to them about a suspicion of an eating disorder with a friend, it's very important to have behaviors that you can describe. So you can say, "you know, when you and I go out for dinner, it seems like you just kind of push the food around on your plate, you don't really seem to eat much. And whatever we're left with,you know I eat my food, but I notice that you hardly eat anything and you always say 'I'm full' when we're done, or 'Oh my gosh I ate too much,'" or, another behavior you might be able to describe is that, you know, we set up a dinner date to go out for dinner and you tell me, oh, you got super hungry and then you ate ahead of time or something, and you end up having a cup of tea with me or something like that. Or, we spent a whole weekend together and I hardly saw you eat. So I'm just kind of worried about you and wondering if you might be struggling with some food issues. I would not say the word 'anorexia,' just say I'm wondering if you might be struggling with some food issues.
What shouldn't I do if I suspect my friend is anorexic?
Don't get in their face about it, because you're going to get denial. So expect denial and what you shouldn't do is be really, really kind of blunt and mean and direct about it, because remember when we're talking about these Anorexics, who are girls who are very conflict-avoided and they're people pleasers; they do not like to disappoint anybody, they hate letting their friends down, and so she'll feel very ashamed and embarrassed and she'll probably become more secretive with you. So you don't want to be too direct, but it's also important if you're dealing with a friend that is a person underage, that it's super important to approach their family members and say, "I'm kind of worried about Jackie because I think that Jackie has been throwing her food away at lunchtime." So if you have a friend in school and you're noticing she's not eating her food and she just seems to be getting thinner, you can go talk to her school counselor, or you could talk to a teacher, or you could talk to that person's parent, because chances are the parents are in that denial place and they're not doing anything.
Can I force my child to get medical treatment if I'm worried about anorexia?
Yes, think about it this way; if your son had an ear infection, are you not going to force them to take that penicillin that they need to take? So for somebody with anorexia, their medicine is food and their medicine is also treatment. So yes you can force them to get treatment even though, I would say at our clinic, probably half of the adolescents we see at my clinic do not want treatment. They typically with an adolescent there's resistance. So they don't want treatment but I tell parents that if your child had a fever, would you say “oh honey, do you think you want to take some Panadol today or do you think you want to wait until tomorrow?” If you child had a fever, you would give them that medicine right away. So if they have anorexia, they need to be in treatment right away. Clearly.
How do my eating habits and behavior influence my children?
A ton of my patients will say, "I remember the first time I thought my stomach was sticking out, it's when I saw my mom look at herself in the mirror, pull her stomach in and say, Oh my God, am I getting fat?" You have that little five year old that is observing her mother. If her mother is preoccupied by the facts of her body, and thinks that she's too fat, the child is internalizing that perspective of her mom. As a parent, what you can do to influence your child is for you to have a healthy body image.