How to Help a Teenage Daughter

About a year ago, my daughter started to lose weight. She explained she wanted to be slim-ish for her prom which was in June. When prom came she had dropped to 7 stone, I told her that it was enough and if she carried on losing I would take her to the Doctors, she carried on losing so I did as I said. They referred her to camh's as the weight continued to fall. I have been taking her now for the last 6 months, She left school in July and started college in September. She now weights 5.7 stone. She is deeply unhappy with life, has little or no self-esteem and is now not even allowed to college. The Councillor has been okay, but obviously it's not working. She see's a psychiatrist this week for the first time and we have talked about medication and even a hospital stay.. I and her mother have had literally 100's of conversations, we have tried everything we possible could to make her change her mindset and now realize that nothing has made any difference. She has her bloods and an Ecg every other week and theirs even been talk of a pacemaker in case her heart stops... This is obviously distressing and I'm at a loss on what to do next! Any advice from anyone is appreciated. It's an awful illness and I would like to help her fight the demon in her head without making things worse...!

22 Replies

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  • Hi concerned dad, I'm so sorry for what you're going through. As a concerned mum we have been there, and I wish we could offer you an instant cure. However, anorexia (you haven't named it, but that's what it sounds like) is a pig to get rid of. We are two years into the process, our daughter was 12 when diagnosed, now 14. We wish we had been harder hitting straight away - making her go to an in-patient unit - as we now think that might have had more impact. Her journey has been very slow, even by anorexics' standards. The demon in her head will be there, no matter what you say or do, until your daughter has recovered to a healthy weight. We realised this rather late - carrots of a pony, sticks of no school, nothing is as powerful as their anorexic 'friend'. Be prepared for a long battle, and by the sound of it, her weight is seriously low, so in-patient treatment might be considered safest at this stage. You can call various help-lines e.g. BEAT, and there are books listed on their website which may help you. Good luck, if you want you can pm me, though I'm not sure how you do that on this site.

  • Thank you Susie, I'm hoping things change soon. If you read any of my replies you will see that she is near to going in to hospital. We are waiting on a bed to come free. She basically has a week or so to show that she can do this on her own (she doesn't want to go in) and I am having to be really hard (very trying) to stand their whilst she eats. i even threatened to follow her into college today unless she finished an actimel yogurt drink in the car and she did so i count that as a small victory..

  • You're doing really well being strong for her, hang on in there. In a strange way I think they appreciate you being firm - it gives them an excuse for going against their anorexic 'voice'. She is lucky to have your love and support.

  • I'm so sorry to hear about about your daughter and her story really resonates with me. When I was first I'll with anorexia I was passed from pillar to post. I saw a college nurse, a college counsellor, 2 nurses at my new college. I was referred to a psychologist at the local CMHT, then to a child psychiatrist. All the time I just got worse and more depressed. I just felt so hopeless. I was forced by college to leave my childcare course. Finally, when i was nearly too weak to walk the CMHT referred me to the local eating disorders unit. It had taken almost 3 years. From my first appoint there I began to recover. The place turned my life round and my poor family who had been through hell finally felt supported too. At the specialist unit I saw a consultant specialist psychologist in eating disorders. Specialist diaticia, occupational therapist as well as mental health nurses trained in treating eating disorders and a specialist psychiatrist.

    In short. I would ask / insist your daughter be referred to a specialist eating disorders unit. She is v likely to need an urgent inpatient admission at her v low BMI but it is absolutely the best way forward. Don't be fobbed of with any other referrals other than to e.d specialists. If I had had this help from the beginning before it became entrenched and taken so long to recover. She may have to go to a unit a long way from home but I promise it is worth it. Sorry for writing so much, I just feel passionate that other sufferers get the proper help early on, rather than being passed to lots of people like I was. I do hope it goes well for her, yourself and your family. Best wishes, Rose.

  • Thankyou Rose. As an update her psychiatrist has made a referral as an inpatient. It might take a few weeks for a room to become available but, I feel I am getting somewhere.

  • I'm so relieved for you all and thank you for the update. I will pray a bed becomes available very soon. Any time you would like support do post here again.

  • I know from experience seeing a loved one fading away and not being able to do anything to stop the decline is devastating and sad. You have done all the right things - but may benefit from contacting ABC' parent helpline to get some support - its not just the sufferer but all those in relationship with her/him that are also affected. May be your daughter might like to contact ABC or BEAT as they both have helplines for sufferers. A stay in hospital can help - but as with all treatment - your daughter has recognise she has an illness - and to want to get better - I've not found enforced treatment has resulted in any long-term recovery.

  • Hi Crazycrossticher, Thank you for your message, Thankfully she does recognize that she has an illness which I believe is a major start.

  • Dear concerned dad, my heart breaks for you in watching your daughter dwindling away. My daughter is 26y.o. and weighs 70lbs. (I don't know what the conversion is from lbs to stones) This started 6 years ago. Believe me it doesn't get better. At least your daughter is willing to go for help, that's a start. Mine refuses psychological help and upon occasion has been hospitalized only for her to run out of the hospital. She is destined to die. Besides the electrolyte imbalances, she has some heart issues, breathing problems as well as now chronic kidney failure. She abuses laxatives and water pills. It has now affected her mind with anger outbursts and swearing. I am not saying all of this to scare you, I know you are already beyond scared. I just want you to use all the resources that you are able to get to help your daughter not get to this point.

    My prayers and thoughts are with you. It is beyond belief in what they see in that mirror. Take care of yourself as well.

  • Hi Agora

    Thank you for your message. I do wish you and your daughter the best for the future. I feel for you and the thought of many years of this makes me sad. I can only do my best for now and I'm focusing on it being successful.

  • Thank you from the bottom of my heart. You and your daughter will be in my thoughts and prayers in getting the help and success she needs.

    I care, Agora

  • Hi I know what you are going through as our daughter was diagnosed last April just before her 15th birthday.

    I won't go into all the details but she spent 2 weeks in our local hosp due to very low blood sugars and dehydration which then meant that CAMHS stepped up their search for a bed in specialist ED unit.

    My experience of CAMHS is that they are severely underfunded which causes their services to be patchy.

    In the end I contacted an ED hosp after researching them on internet and I feel that my input helped to get the bed for my daughter.

    She has been in the hosp since end June last year...she has nearly put all the wight back on but she is not very receptive to the therapy to help her understand the ED etc.

    The hospital has been the best place for her , even though it is nearly 200 miles away from home and takes 4 hours to get there I would not move her.

    She now has home leave which was very hard at first but with the support from everyone at hosp we take little positive steps.

    This evil disease will test you and your relationship with your wife too.

    My husband and I have a very good relationship I feel but this really has tested it big time.

    We are also both signed off from work due to the stress this has causes and also on a practical level it is very difficult to work when you are supporting someone with ED.

    I do hope you get a bed for your daughter soon.

    Try & stay strong but know that it is ok to have a cry because you need to let that out ( you just need to stay strong in front of your daughter but in private it is ok!)

    We feel very alone & I haven't managed to find a support group locally yet but as I said we get the support from the hosp.

    Your friends and relatives won't get it so this can make you feel very isolated.

    If you want to ask me anything please do and I really do wish you all the best for the future.There is always hope and you must cling to that.

    xx

  • Hi Joanna, wow reading your story seems sad. I kinda feel lucky that my local hospital has an ED unit. It's just 5 miles away.. I can't imagine what it must be like driving so far every week. I also feel like we are lucky (sounds crazy) that my daughter know's she has a problem and is willing and wants help. From other peoples experiences this seems to be a major stumbling point... I also know that this could change and even though I feel we have reached the bottom I might be wrong and their could be a lot further to go. I wish you the best and thank you for writing.. Gud luck and again thanks

  • Hi ,

    I am sorry to read your too familiar story. My advice is to use as much good help and support. My daughter is only alive because she went into a GOOD treatment centre, I am not convinced that all centres are good. My advice would be to listen to your daughter and do your best to separate her words from those that are put in her head/mouth by the illness. It is all about control and her use of control to quiet her fears which are paramount. Your daughter has spent her life learning which buttons to press to maximise the usefulness of her parents! and Anorexia just moves in and takes full advantage of that insider knowledge. Anorexia will fight , and perhaps the more that you confront it the more that it will dig in. I dont know who does? But try to find your daughter in there and talk to her, plan the day with her away from food, dont allow secrecy. And dont expect a quick fix, I am sorry to say this I hated hearing this at the start of my daughter's illness but it is a long and teaful journey, but keep believing, give her distractions something or someone that she can invest in (in my daughters case its a dog). But do let the professionals work with her in a unit, on reflection I was pretty hopeless mainly because I didnt want to believe it was happening I wanted it over and I wanted to believe my girl. best of luck. My girl is 4 years from where you are she is 24 she is the assistant director of a company, but she is still not really out of the woods, but I am ever hopeful x

  • Hi, this is terrible, and I do hope she eventually recovers. I've had my problems with eating disorders. It's in my past now, but I'm haunted by it daily thanks to what it has done to my body. But good treatment place is key, mine was rubbish, I went from just being anorexic to being bulimic while "being treated" then they couldn't find me any further treatment because I wasn't Ill enough at that point, even though I was on a fast path to a dangerous place, plus I was 18 so I was no longer a priority. For me some pretty horrid stuff happened in my life, and it was a wake up call, though it was a challenge, I did it. I got rid of weighing scales from the house, full length mirrors, and got pro active with baking, and vegan food/ life style. I dunno if any of those things would help you guys, but the scales was key for me, I didn't have a clue if my weight was fluctuating slightly, and it was less terrifing when I started to gain weight again, but if my parents had taken away the mirrors without my concent for example It wouldn't have helped. The only thing I know for sure is had to be my choice or it wouldn't have worked, but that's not to say people can't help, it's a horrible mind set to be stuck in and you're miserable. Sounds odd but something that helped me was going for like 2 for £10 meals with my mum every week or so, food became a reward almost, something I looked forward to. I dunno if any of this helped, but I really hope you guys find a way out of this horrible condition :')

  • Thankyou Little Sparrow. Scales have gone already, and she won't be told at the weekly weigh in's if she puts on weight.. I've asked her to do a collage of pictures over the last 3 years and pick the one where she feels she looks the best (roughly 2 stone heavier than at the moment) and I've promised that If she puts on weight I won't let her get past that.. Feel she's scared she won't be able to stop.. It's all worth a try even though it's not worked so far.. All the same thank for the reply and I wish you love and all the best for your future

  • I must say the collage idea, is a marvilious idea, it will make it all a lot more real, I know personally I didn't know how much I looked like bones with skin wrapped around until after and I looked back on photos. Honestly you've probably hit the nail on the head there. With the not being able to stop, but I'm guessing the doctors could help you put a good healthy diet together for her for when she hits target weight. That maybe everyone in the family could commit to for a while if she want that,and a very controlled exercise plan again doing with someone at a later date once she gets to target weight to stay In shape? (that's if she can exercise with the heart issues) all the best of luck to you guys

  • Hello All.. I'm going to give an update as I feel it's important for people going through the same thing.. My Daughter's weight continued to go down and just one week ago was admitted into an eating disorders unit weighing just 5 stone 2lbs. She voluntarily went in and recognized she could no longer do this on her own. I went to visit each night and basically she just hugged me and told me how much she hates it and how hard it was. I then received a call Saturday evening and I was driving on the motorway from work and she was in tears.. She told me she was so happy as she had just ate a full meal of chicken curry and rice along with 300ml of milk.. To say that a week before I couldn't get her to touch milk or even entertain the idea of a sauce would be an understatement. She was crying because she was so happy with herself. When she was admitted she was told that most kids get a eureka moment where there mind just changes and this was hers. When I visited yesterday she had ate her breakfast and full Sunday dinner and spent 2 hours non stop talking about what she was planning on doing with life. For the last 6 months she never even mentioned having any future.. She ate over 2500 calories yesterday which would have been a weeks food for her.. Now I'm not saying she is cured or anything of the sort and I realize that she is only at the start of her treatment and desperate to get out of the unit, but to hear your own child wanting to put on weight, wanting a future, speaking with enthusiasm and enjoying eating again just feels so good. it's going to be a long road and for some (ours has lasted 2 years so far) longer than others, but I just wanted to share a small victory whilst I can and wish hope to all those going through the same thing. I will update when she reaches a normal weight and I feel she can do it and more importantly so does she..

  • That's a really good news! I am happy to hear, that you daughter get better.

  • Okay a small update, My daughter is now 62 days into hospital treatment.  It was incredibly difficult at first as 2 to 3 hours a day spent in hospital can be quite draining especially when the topic of conversation is about food.. We have moved on from that and she's now starting to get important psychological help.. She doesn't think this is working, but as I explained to her, it's more about getting you to think differently rather than the psychologist saying something profound that will all of a sudden be a cure all (If only).. She has continued to put on weight and is nearly a stone heavier than when she went in.. She has another stone and a half to put on to becoming weight restored, but it is getting easier for us at least as she can come home most evenings for a few hours so no more sitting in hospital.. i have even taken her out and given her driving lessons as it gives both me and her a break from talking about food.. Last week I took her out for a meal and it wasn't easy.. We went to 5 outlets, Starbucks, costa coffee, and 3 small cafes all of which had their problems (too much this and that) and her wanting to go back to the hospital as she knew it was safe to eat there.. After a few deep breaths I convinced her to go back to Starbucks where she could watch what her sandwich was made of and have control.. Okay I know it's far from ideal, but its all about baby steps and the sandwich was ate outside in the sun and no stress and it was a good starting point and we didn't give up.. We have a long way to go and we have had many bad days, I'm always suprised what small details can turn an okay day to a real bad day, something as simple as their being too much butter on the bread or a bigger potato than usual.. I wish there was a simple answer, but wishing isn't going to get us anywhere.. Patience, support and a big glass of wine before bed helps!! 

  • Concerned dad, I remember how kind you were in responding to my concern about my daughter.  I'm glad your daughter is now in a program. I hope that it will turn her thoughts around psychologically at least while working on eating.  You sound like an amazing supportive parent who truly understands this is not an overnight cure.  I wish your daughter continued success no matter how small at the beginning.   For you, I wish you strength and patience in this journey.  Please continue to give us updates from time to time.  I wish both of  you well and will keep you in my thoughts. 

  • Okay It's been quite some time since I updated so bare with me.. I'm my last update my daughter was living in a unit eating regular meals and getting some home leave... All seemed to be going okay unit I went in one Saturday morning and was put in a waiting room as the lead nurse wanted to have a chat.. She sat me down and told me that my daughter had tried to kill herself the night before by tying shoe laces together and hanging herself from the door. A staff member had caught her and cut the lace before damage was done.. When my daughter came in all I could do was give her a hug and tell her things would improve.. When my daughter went back to the room the nurse told me that things would get a whole lot worse before they got better and she wasn't wrong.. Getting back to a normal weight is terrifying to anorexics and in my daughters case she would rather die.. Thus started a 4 month period of self determination to end her life.. I'm not going into each incident, in detail but the one that shocked me the most was having to sit in A&E holding her hand after she had stolen and drank bleach from a hospital cleaner. I just held her hand and told her I wasn't going to give up on her even though at that point she had given up on herself. By now she was being medicated, and it seemed to me that different combinations of drugs were sending her deeper and deeper into depression. I was still visiting everyday and when possible I would take the responsibility for taking her out.. She never tried anything when she was with me and I never believed she would as I knew she didn't want me to see me hurt directly.. It's a very scary time, but also it becomes very normal and you do adjust to it. It was no longer a shock to hear the phone ring and to be told that there had been an incident and come I come down to the hospital.. It's also a surprise that you are no longer party to everything that goes on and sometimes the first you hear of an incident is when you read about it in the monthly meeting along with what kind of drugs she is now taking.. Where are we now? Well It's hard to explain as at the moment she is asleep in the room next to me, in fact i'm about to wake her up for breakfast as it's 9am and she is on home leave.. About 1 month ago a switch flipped over in her head and she just decided that she wanted her life back.. She's been studying hard and wants to go back to college to complete her A-levels (she is like a lot of the girls on the unit academically gifted) She's home quite a lot now and gets 3 days leave a week and 10 hours on other days.. She still has lot's of problems at meal times, but is at a weight where I and the staff are happy with even though she feels fat. I feel it's important for her to mix with girls who don't have eating problems as I never feel that a child can recover fully when they are around other children that have anorexia.. Do I feel like she is cured? No that's going to take a long time. Do I feel she won't try to take her life again? No I don't and i'm not sure I ever will because I know if that's they way she goes when the stress get's too much then she could head that way for any other reason.. For now I'm happy that she is smiling again and talking about a future that neither of us thought she was going to have? It really is one day at a time and I will keep people updated as I know there's a lot of people out there with the same sort of problems..

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