A Parent’s Guide To Navigating An Eating Disorder Diagnosis

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So, your child has been diagnosed with an eating disorder. That’s a scary thing to admit, isn’t it? You, dear parent, are to be commended for the courage it took to admit that something was wrong and that you were in over your head. That is no small feat for a parent, to admit they need help with their child. We like to think we can do it all on our own. You have crossed that hurdle. You found a place to start, something to call this worry that was gnawing at your heart. You found someone who could confirm what was going on.

But now what? You are most likely feeling all the things we don’t like to feel guilt, sadness, frustration, anger, confusion. You may be feeling overwhelmed, or maybe relieved. The next step is to find a good treatment program for your child. Depending on your child’s health and specific diagnosis, and where you live, there may be a plethora of options. Or you might have to search hard to find something only halfway good enough. Hopefully, you have treatment provider who specializes in eating disorders and can guide you through this maze. If you haven’t found that yet, keep looking.

The bad news is that this may be an uphill battle. An eating disorder can have long term health complications including growth, bone development, infertility and heart problems. Treatment will be complicated, and probably on-going. 1/3 of patients with an eating disorder will recover after one initial episode, 1/3 will have recurring relapses, 1/3 will slowly and steadily continue to deteriorate. While there is certainly no one specific cause of your child’s eating disorder, most experts will agree that our culture’s obsession with an ideal body image is a contributing factor
This ideal image has been burned into our collective subconscious for generations now. It will take time and effort to reframe that in your child’s mind. It will most likely take medication and outpatient care and counseling and a good dietician. It may even involve any inpatient eating disorder treatment. But you can do it. You can and you will do whatever it takes to keep your child healthy.

The good news is, there is always hope. The sooner treatment is started, the better the outlook. Even a long-standing untreated eating disorder can improve. Research is ongoing. Awareness is growing. Pressure to increase access to care is being applied to our government. You are not alone. There are support groups, and groups working to increase funding and raise money for research. Other people have gone through this. Reach out and connect to them. They will be your best allies.

You may be surprised at how supportive other people in your life will be. It might be hard at first, to share what you are going through. You might think people will judge you, or not understand. People are generally good though, and you will be amazed at how many other people, when you are brave enough to open to them, will look at you and quietly say, “Me too”.