How long in treatment does it general... - Anorexia Bulimia ...

Anorexia Bulimia Care
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How long in treatment does it generally take to get an eating disorder under control?


My daughter is nearly 13 and has been struggling with eating for the past 2 years. She is under the care of camhs but we don't seam to be getting anywhere. It all began with a virus in February 2 years ago that caused diarrhea and sickness. When this cleared she would not eat and was complaining of stomach pains. After repeated visits to doctors they eventually referred her to hospital. I paid privately initially to avoid wait but many tests and scans later I was told nothing could be found to cause the stomach pains but she was referred to mental health as she was linking the pain with food. We went to a child psychiatrist, hypnotherapist, and lastly to camhs but none have really got any further. She does not fit typical anerexia sufferer as she does not say she wants to loose weight or feels fat but she does display other signs, she plays with food, hides it, drops it, lies about eating. She is pale and gaunt with no energy. She weighs 37.2kg and is 4ft 11. She used to be quiet chunky and full of energy, have lots of friends and loved to dance. All this has gone. She hates any form of exercise. She seams depressed and i feel that if i'm on at her all time I'm making this worse but when i leave her she 'forgets to eat or drink' or just has water.

16 Replies

Hi claejj, i'm a 15 year old anorexia sufferer and I've been into treatment quite a few times. Treatment usually lasts 4 months, but in some cases it can take longer. It may be that your daughter has a fear of getting that virus back and blames it on food, therefore doesn't want to eat it back. She may have EDNOS, which means she has symptoms of an ED but she doesn't have one of the main three (anorexia, bulimia & binge eating) Possibly suggest this to your daughter, about the illness, and see what she says? Has she told you why she's avoiding food?

Hi Clare , my 14 year old daughter has anorexia Nervosa . She is currently being treated by CAMHS . Unfortunately we too feel we are getting no where . You may have to do much of the work yourself .

I would address her physical condition first . You say she looks pale and gaunt . I would take her to your GP first and have bloods done she could be anaemic . This is such a complex disease or disorder . I thought as a nurse I would be prepared but frankly I'm not . Ask your daughters practitioners as many questions as possible and demand answers. Does she have a meal plan ? Medication for her depression maybe needed . Have you joined a support group ? They are usually helpful and help with the sense of isolation you may be feeling Anorexia is very isolating especially for your daughter , keeping friends is very difficult as most young people don't have the capacity 'to get it '. You could contact the school and speak to the pastoral care team about the possibility of home tuition . CAMHS will help you with this , you will need a letter from the consultant Psychiatrist. If you are worried about her physical condition . physical exercise will be impossible for your daughter as she is probably severely physically depleted if she is restricting her food intake . I have to stand over my daughter to make her eat and give her permission so she doesn't have to take the responsibility herself . We have and continue to have many arguments over her food intake . We have the added problem of her vegetarianism which can be difficult to manage on top of the Anorexia . Take care of yourself Clare , any mental health is very hard on everybody involved and mental health always affects not only those directly involved but the entire extended family Ripples on the pond comes to mind here. Have you spoken to your GP about you ? The problem with CAMHS is they have very little in place for the carers of young people with ED's. Your GP should be able to help you ,there should be all kinds of help available through your GP practice . You can claim for various benefits , it's not just about the money but an official recognition of your situation which can help with 'speeding things up ' .

I hope this has helped a little , you are not alone , even though it may feel that way . Much love Clare. Kitty XX


Clare sorry I didn't answer your question . My daughter has in effect been suffering from an eating disorder for 2 years . Physically she is not in danger anymore but is now severely restricting again . We were told 1 year to reach the point of physical recovery . The problem being that Anorexia affects growth in young people and there is an optimum time for physical recovery to stop this process .

We have been told my daughters anorexia may be something that will need to be addressed to a greater or lesser degree through out her life . The point is all Anorexics are different , I honestly don't think there is an answer for this . A good book for you : Skills based Learning for Caring for a Loved One with an Eating Disorder . The New Maudsley Method . ISBN 978-0-415-43158-3. You may be able to borrow this from your CAMHS team or local library . It sounds technical but gives great tips on how to deal with and communicate effectively with your daughter without using triggering words ,in fact the whole Anorexia spectrum is in here with real practical suggestions and help . hope this helps Kitty XX

You have my sympathies and hopes that your daughter can start to recover. I managed to beat my anorexia and I now have my own counselling practice. I try and help other eating disorders sufferers to beat their condition.

Sadly, there isn't an easy solution to beating an eating disorder. But it can be beaten. Anorexia is a mental illness that causes physical side effects(weight loss etc) Sadly the NHS/camhs see weight gain as a sign of recovery. This couldn't be further from the truth. Yes, weight gain is essential if one is to fully function, but the key to recovery is unlocking the psychological side of the illness. It is imperative to understand the anorexic "voice" There is always a trigger for the disorder and there are factors that maintain the ED.

Therefore we have to find out the true nature of the ED. We need to know what caused it and what maintains it?

I am sorry to say that here in the UK, conventional psychiatry is not able to effectively understand and treat an ED.

I have patients who are with camhs and their treatment and understanding, as well as their interpersonal skills, leave a lot to be desired. They will treat anorexia primarily with food. They will contend that when someone is severely malnourished and a very low weight that they are not receptive to psychological interventions. So they don't even bother to try. I have worked successfully with patients with a BMI as low as 11.5 and believe me they were totally receptive to psychological interventions.

Forcing people to eat does not get them better, it actually makes their condition worse. Yes people have to be fed at times to save their lives. But patients need talking treatments along this. I have patients who were force fed in hospital and were left totally alone all day in their beds without any attempt at providing talking treatments. I know from experience how terrifying and isolating this makes us feel.

In an eating disorder unit, most patients eat for one reason only. They eat to get out. I did this myself. I was in a unit twice and every readmission they had, they person had started starving again immediately on discharge. What does this tell you.

I breaks my heart to see people treated in the way they are in this country by both the NHS and private sector.

I do know that unless we understand the nature of the illness, the precipitating factors, the voice, and what maintains it is unlikely that sufferers will get better.

I travel many miles to see my clients and they also do the same when they come and see me. Such is the paucity of specialist treatment in this country. I am not a magician and an eating disorder is the hardest and most resilient mental illness to treat. I know what its like to have that voice in your head 24/7. This is what makes it so hard to treat. The better someone gets then the harder the voice tries to survive. It does often terrorize people into giving up. It is that bad. Unless you have had this in your head then its impossible to understand its impact. I do understand and I do want to help.

I am not touting for business. I have a genuine desire to help sufferers and their families. An ED draws everyone into the illness. It is not only the patient who suffers but everyone around them.

Please get in touch and let us have a chat.

Please excuse any of my typing errors. I am not one of the worlds greatest typists.

Take and good luck

Hi Mark I have been looking at posts for help re our 15 year old daughter. Your post really resonates and I totally agree with you re CAMHS.They are supposed to be experts but one of them still said to me daughter how well she was looking since the last time she saw her.This has caused my daughter to be very anti CAMHS which is difficult because since being discharged from being in hospital for 8 months CAMHS is our only support.

My daughter did not really engage with any of the therapists at the hospital so she still has mental health issues which are not being dealt with.She really needs help with this side of things otherwise I can see that recovery is a long way off.She is at a safe weight for now but since discharge 2 weeks ago she has starting restricting again and I am worried that she will end up back in hospital where, by her own admission, she has picked up habits etc from other ED sufferers that she did not know about before eg how to purge.

I don't know if I should push her towards a private therapist as she may just not want to talk to anyone.

Any suggestions, thoughts would be welcomed.

Thank you

I sorry to hear of your troubles. Sadly it's not uncommon for people to lapse their anorexic behaviour upon discharge. This is what I did when I left the eating disorder unit twice. Anorexia is notoriously difficult to treat and is resistant to treatment.

I can empathise with your daughters antipathy to CAHMS. For any one with an ED telling them they look well only means one thing. It the mind of an anorexic it means they look fat. Any mention of appearance must be avoided if possible by a therapist.

Private counselling is always preferable to NHS in my experience. I am not not touting for business but I can offer counselling via SKYPE. I have found using Skype can be less intimidating to clients as they can control their own environment and consequently feel much more comfortable doing the Counselling.

Please contact me if you are interested. Please do this via personal message as their are issues of confidentiality.

Be extremely careful how you choose your counsellor as it's imperative they are experienced it treating ED. I would also suggest that if you would rather choose someone else than me, that they they have had a ED themselves . To makes a massive difference.

Thanks for making contact and good luck

Take care


Thank you for taking the time to reply.We are ticking along ok for now but will take your comments on board recounselling 

Mark, how refreshing to finally hear of someone who has been on both sides as a patient and now a therapist.  You are right in that the doctors are really not able to treat ED.  I am the mother of a 26y.o. anorexic daughter. (6 yrs)  She is 5'3''  72lbs.  In chronic renal failure, low sodium, potassium, magnesium etc.  Bones are so fragile they could break with the wrong move.  She suffers from shortness of breathe, body pain, daily vomiting due to the high number of laxatives and diuretics she takes.  She is losing her hair, skin is like paper and yet refuses any help.  The couple times she was brought in through the ER she either signed herself out or the last time, ran out of the hospital and was picked up by security and released back home.   There is a therapist nearby who won't see my daughter because she doesn't fit the criteria for outpatient therapy.  I don't see a solution to this.   I thank you for posting and caring so much about others with this problem.   Wishing you well 

It must be heartbreaking for a parent to watch their child in such distress. And it also frustrating isn't it? I sincerely feel for you. 

I tried for over a year to liaise with the NHS regarding providing counselling for ED patients. I just went round in circles and ran into brick wall after brick wall. I am not ashamed to admit that I gave up with them. 

I know I can help those with anorexia far better than than those within the NHS but I can't get anywhere near their patients. And that for me is appalling. Patient care should come above all else. 

All I can say is that I do offer counselling via Skype so if your daughter is interested in talking then please get in touch. I don't have a magic cure for this awful disorder but I do totally understand all of the nuances and complexities of anorexia. 

I know from experience that the most essential element of a  counselling relationship is empathy. I know that living with anorexia is pure hell on earth. To find someone who can truly understand is half of the battle and in itself it creates a belief that we are not alone and someone is there. And that is the first step to recovery 

Please PM me if you would like to discuss counselling for your daughter.

I wish you good luck and hope that you and your daub are able to find peace and a solution 

Take care


Thank you, thank you so much.  I will work on getting my

daughter to agree to talk with you.  So far, I haven't had

any luck with her wanting to get help.  If she is willing, I

will PM you and get the ball rolling.   Have a good day Mark....

Thanks. I would respectfully suggest that you are very careful how you approach the subject of counselling with your daughter. 

I know from experience that the harder one pushes then the harder the person with anorexia will resist.

It's not our daughter who is resisting it's the anorexia. The ED creates a personality schism and  a constant battle takes place between the sufferer and their anorexia as the anorexia seeks to gain total control.

Conventional treatment and theories will never be able this process. And that is why current treatments are so ineffective.

I would suggest that you in some any try to appeal to your daughter to seek help rather than her anorexia as the anorexia will absolutely be terrified of any form of treatment.

It's also important to understand that ones anorexia gives their life meaning and purpose. It defines who they are. I was absolutely terrified of losing my anorexia because I feared that without it my life would not have any purpose and I would be Inexorably lost without it. Looking back I now realise that it was my anorexia that was scared and not myself

Many will regard my analysis of anorexia with scepticism but that is Because they have never suffered with it. 

It's the constant battle the sufferer has between themselves and their anorexia that is so debilitating. 

I hope this helps in the way you understand daughters anorexia. She is in there somewhere and she wants of her wants to get better and be free to make her own choices and decisions. That is the part one has to reach.

Good luck and take care

Thank you Mark for your input.  It all makes sense.  She once said to me, "this is the only life I know".  Take care, I appreciate your suggestions in how to approach the subject. We need more people like you who understand from the heart and not just a book.  Take care.

I hope this helps you I neither fitted typical anorexia mine started when I had a operation that went wrong I started from then they kept telling me the pain was in head that cause me not to eat I lost 3stone in 10 weeks it took 2 years for them to relize it was their mistake they forgot to sew the wound up properly it's taking me 3 years to get eating under controll I used to hide my food and just drink diet coke alweek I was so deppressed and I seeked counselling to help me I started running 8miles a day to help me mentally but every persons story is different I hope this helps your daughter

Hi, if ur daughter doesnt eat or unable to. Try giving her ensure milk. And soup . She feel depressed due to her low weight and not enuff energy .


Hi clarejj,

We're sorry to read of your concerns about your daughter.

We often recommend to parents two books which you might find useful at this stage. They're available from our website ‘shop’, Shop on our Home page, or from Amazon. The first is The Parent’s Guide to Eating Disorders, which you might find helpful as it is a practical book with answers to frequently asked questions, and will hopefully guide you as to how best to approach your daughter with your concerns. The second is a little pocket book of ours called ‘First Steps out of an Eating Disorder’ by Kate Middleton and Jane Smith. This will take you gently through the reasons for the eating problem and give you some suggestions to help and support your daughter in overcoming the disordered eating and achieving recovery.

Hi, I developed anorexia at 14,I’m now 22 and have been in treatment and relapsed multiple times as well as attempted recovery on my own. The thing is you can force someone to go into treatment and force them to gain weigh, but until they accept the eating disorder and want to get better they won’t truly recover. It really depends on the individual. Treating the physical symptoms may only take a month or two, but the mental side can take years depending on the individual. Even after 9 months of inpatient treatment I went back to my eating disorder behaviors when I left because I didn’t think I ha a problem and I wasn’t ready to get better. It wasn’t until I was 19 that I accepted my illness and I am still working to recover.

Personally I don’t think that a desire to loose weight or look a certain way is necessary for anorexia. There is a common thread throughout history with anorexia being a search for purity and spiritual enlightenment. For me it was largely related to an obsession with health due to fear of my fathers chronic illness.

Anorexia has a biological component and it’s likely that if the anorexia gene so to speak has been turned on it’s something she will have to be mindful of for her whole life.

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