I Think My Daughter Has an Eating Disorder: What Should I Do?

I Think My Daughter Has an Eating Disorder- What Should I Do?Daughters reach a point in their lives when they are trying to break away, grow more independent and start distancing themselves from their parents. It is a tough time for parents, because they want to foster their child’s independence, personal growth and confidence, but they also know that teens and young adults are susceptible to peer pressure and self-esteem issues. While you may not want to infringe on your child’s privacy, it is important to look out for signs of eating disorders.

Food Awareness Is a Sign of an Eating Disorder

If you see an increased attention to food, look carefully at what your daughter is focusing on. If she is looking at the total nutritional value of food, then you can work with her in setting up a food management program that ensures she has all of the vitamins and calories that she needs to sustain her health. If she is focusing exclusively on caloric intake, she is not viewing food as items that are required for her health. Listen to what she talks about when she is figuring out what to eat. If she is focusing on calories or is making excuses for not eating the nutritious meal you have prepared, these are warning signs of an eating disorder. If she is beyond finicky when it comes to food or goes to the bathroom frequently after eating, consider talking with her about healthy food choices.

Fitness Awareness May Be a Sign of an Eating Disorder

Parents want their daughter to be healthy and fit. Setting an example is the best thing a parent can do so that their child can see that fitness is important and can be incorporated into everyday life. If your daughter starts exercising daily for extended periods of time, is compulsive about exercise or speaks about exercise in terms of how many calories she can use per exercise, these are warning signs of an eating disorder.

Appearance and Behavior Can Indicate an Eating Disorder

Every teen fusses with their appearance, so it is often difficult to determine whether the focus is “normal” or if it is moving in a harmful direction. Frequently trying different hairstyles, nail polish colors and clothes is common, but listen to how she reacts to these new things. If she embraces them with joy, then she is just exploring options. However if she feels she never looks good enough, consider learning more about body image issues.

What to Do If You Suspect Your Daughter Has an Eating Disorder

Talking with your daughter about eating disorders and health is the first step. While you do not want a confrontational discussion that ends in slamming doors or miscommunication, you need to make your daughter aware of your concerns. Explore why she is focusing on food, exercising excessively or changing her appearance so often. Keep asking questions so that she can identify the underlying thoughts to her actions. Give her a safe environment in which to have these conversations, and let her know that you are here to help but not judge. Support her desire to have independence and confidence in resolving her issues, but you also need to draw the line. Let her know what you are prepared to do should you suspect she is putting herself at risk. This open exchange, which may happen several times a week over several months, may just be what your daughter needs to work through these issues.

While you are giving your daughter time to implement her own plan, be sure to consult your physician, do research about eating disorders and seek help from eating disorder counselors to give yourself the support you need to help your daughter heal.

Get Help for Eating Disorders

The sooner you get help for your daughter with an eating disorder, the greater the likelihood that she will recover. To receive answers to any questions you may have about eating disorders or talking to you daughter, call our toll-free helpline. We are available 24 hours a day. We want to help you find the right recovery options to handle eating disorders and can provide you with options, information about insurance and resources. We are here to help.