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What a teenager wishes her parents knew about eating disorders

Thriving, the blog at Children's Hospital Boston, has a great post today in which a teen patient provides perspective on her two-year struggle with anorexia. What did this patient wish her parents had known about her disease? Among other things:

  • "It was never about weight. I just wanted to feel like I had some control."
  • "I didn’t want to have an eating disorder, but I was scared of what would happen if I got rid of it."
  • "I needed a wake up call."

And among the writer's suggestions for ways parents can help their teens is the following:

Be open to family therapy. Family therapy can be one of the hardest, but most useful parts of treatment for an eating disorder. It gives the family a chance to discuss what your child is going through and talk about family issues when there is someone else who can act as a problem solver. Family therapy is also a good place to figure out what are the most helpful ways to offer support.

The clinicians at the Comprehensive Eating Disorders Program at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital would definitely support this concept of family involvement. In fact, their research, led by James Lock, MD, has demonstrated that family-based therapy for anorexia nervosa is twice as effective as individual psychotherapy in achieving significant remission from the disorder. The version of family-based therapy that Lock and colleagues have tested goes beyond bringing parents into counseling sessions - it also empowers them to interrupt the disordered eating behaviors that are integral to their teen's disease. And the approach avoids the long hospitalizations that have traditionally been part of anorexia nervosa treatment. From a press release I wrote last fall about his work:

“I would like clinicians to see that parents can be helpful,” he said. “The model of putting kids in the hospital, which excludes parents, or of professionals expecting young adolescents to manage their own eating without their parents’ help when they’re immersed in anorexic thinking, really should be reconsidered.”

Previously: Stanford's eating disorder program owes its success to holistic treatment; KQED health program examines causes and effects of disordered eating.
Image by Abominatron

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