Really need serious advice on eating disorders

Postby heatherbell » Sun Jan 25, 2009 5:36 pm


I'm hoping someone out there can offer me some advice on how best to help my friends whose daughter is anorexic.

She works in the entertainment industry as a dancer and the pressure has always been on her to be thin. It's now totally out of hand and her parents are at their wits end as to what to do. Her dad has been providing her with an allowance, and he thinks if he cuts that off then she'll have to get a full time job so she'll have to be fit enough for that..ergo she'll have to eat. I'm no expert but I don't think that tactic will work as she's too unwell both physically and psychologically. All she does at the moment is sleep lots, gets up for a dance class - she knows just how much she has to eat in order to do that-goes home, sleeps again, gets up and does couple of hours in the pub, goes home, sleeps again. She's permanently cold and looks awful. If she's forced into a situation where she has to eat she'll eat a whole meal and then be sick. Lunch can be chopped cucumber and celery. She was home for Christmas and she's positively skeletal-she's like a baby bird, when you hug her, you feel she's going to break. She has no fat anywhere and finds it uncomfortable to sit for too long and she's uncomfortable in crowds. What scared me was a programme I saw on Sky on Friday called 'How can I help my child' - or similar- which featured two teenage anorexics. The girl on the programme was heading for inpatient care and she was nowhere as thin as my friends' daughter.

I'd really appreciate any advice from anyone with experience of this problem.

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Postby Triarius » Mon Jan 26, 2009 2:41 am

in my limited experience (I have known at least one girl who was anorexic/bulimic) it is mostly an attention thing. There are always different causes, but I think the root cause is self image.

It comes from a deep rooted BELIEF "I am not good enough", that pressure you mentioned. And removing the pressure is no good because that's an "affirmation" of the 'fact' that "i'm not good enough"... see what I mean?

What I would try (and I'm an amateur, keep in mind) is Socratic logic. Start at the top, the most obvious, childlike questions. It often helps to think like a child.

"Why don't you eat?"

~"Cause I'm fat"

"Why do you think that?"
"Why would that be a problem anyways?"

~"Cause I have to be skinny to perform"

"But they still like you as you are"

and so on. Basically, what this does is lead the askee to the logically conclusion that their mentality and beliefs are wrong.

I gamble and I watch my weight. You know how I do it? I set myself up with very specific rules. I am to weigh no more than 160 lbs (I'm 5'10" so that's on the high side of what I want). I spend no more than $10 per week on lottery tickets. Period. End of story. You could recommend her parents giving her very specific guidelines. I don't know how much she weighs, or what her healthy/model weight should be, but you could have her parents enforce a "You need to be between 125 and 130" rule to get allowance or something like that.

That practically ignores her "problem" by enforcing an opposite belief. If they give too much attention to her "problem" it reinforces it.

Just guessing here, but food for thought.
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Postby Verity A » Mon Jan 26, 2009 9:12 am

I believe its about control .

What your friends daughter eats is or rather was an area where she had control . One of the things that can cause this is a past issue of having no control in a sutuation , not feeling ready to take on the responsibilities of an adult (maybe stuck at a younger age because of emotional scaring at that point) , or through drug use , or even accidentally .

The problem becomes obsessive as it provides the comfort of control . At some point though , the very thing she is after .. contol , is lost . She becomes controlled by it instead .

If her father cuts off her allowance she may feel even worse and justify starving herself all the more .

If it was my daughter I would encourage her into psychotherapy of some sort , analytical hypnotherapy probably as this is relatively fast paced . I would put it in a way to her that would make it appealing .. maybe suggesting that the contol she has lost can be hers again ..

Good luck
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Postby heatherbell » Mon Jan 26, 2009 10:08 am

Hi Seta/Verity

Thanks for your replies - I believe there's something in what you both say about not feeling good enough and being in control.

The girl in question had some major surgery when she was 14. It was very unexpected/traumatic and has left her with considerable scarring. This is not ideal for someone who wants to make their mark in her business. It was probably an ill considered career choice, although it was something she'd always loved as a hobby. The irony is she's not getting any work because of the way she looks, casting directors can't take the chance on someone who's so obviously unwell.

She's not very big to start with - probably only about 5'1-but her sister has told us that she only weighs around 80lbs. Sister also says that she has pics on the inside of food cupboard doors of size 0 celebrities.

One of the major problems in dealing with this is that she's living in London while her parents are here in Scotland. So far they've tried stuff which might work with motivating a lazy student son, but won't work for someone with her problems. Can anyone tell me if the tough love/reward approach is still used in eating disorder units? You know 'you can't have a cigarette til you eat this biscuit' method?

I-along with several other friends - see this as a matter of urgency and are very worried, while her mum and dad still seem to believe it's something she can stop if she could only motivate herself. We all feel it's gone way beyond that and are very worried for the entire family.

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Postby Masha B » Tue Jan 27, 2009 9:55 am

Anorexia is a really difficult condition especially because the majority of anorexics do not want to change. It also, sadly, has the highest mortality rate of all mental health disorders.

I would recommend consulting with the National Centre for Eating Disorders in London, Deanne Jade is an expert with a vast amount of knowledge and experience in this area and she should be able to advise on the best course of action.

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Postby heatherbell » Tue Jan 27, 2009 10:39 am

Hi Masha

Thanks so much for the link-I'm going to try and speak to someone later today. My friends really haven't got their head round this, so first thing is to find out how best to help them.

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Postby jurplesman » Wed Jan 28, 2009 3:27 am

If it is an eating disorder then please read:

Eating Disorders: Anorexia and Bulimia

and discuss with a Nutritional Doctor, Clinical Nutritionist or a Nutritionla Psychologist
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