My daughter is 11 and has bulimia. she started binging 2 1/2 years ago and soon discovered purging. I want to help her, but I dont know how!

I knew she was binging but didn't discover she was being sick for about 6 months. When i caught her she broke down in an explosion of self loathing. It broke my heart to see her like it.

After binging on raw bacon etc.. she had a year of counselling for "emotional problems" rather than an ed, which stopped just before starting secondary school. She now has an underactive thyroid and abnormal liver function and although she started her periods when she was 10 they have now stopped. She has admitted to binging everyday and purging approx 15-20 times a month, on a bad day 3-4 times. She is going back to the doctor this week, who has said she will refer her, but that it may take a long time. Please give me as much advice as possible.

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  • First of all well done for seeking help and advice and sharing this dreadful situation with others. I really do empathise how difficult this situation is and heartbreaking for a parent. Whilst I am always loathed to give advice without meeting someone, your daughter is young and therefore I am assuming that you have some influence over her meals and her whereabouts during the day? You may well have an extremely tough job getting her to eat regular meals and then also keeping an eye on her behaviour inbetween meals ie is she going to the bathroom to purge? But as her parent you will have a huge influence on her recovery. It is not your daughter, but the eating disorder who is behaving like this and she need your help to fight it.

    You say that.the binging started 2 half years ago and so will probably not stop overnight, so be prepared for a long haul but y can do it. You too may benefit from some support, search the Internet for support groups and ask around, and if there isn't one ask if yr GP if he would give your name to others in a similar position, (because there will be some) and maybe you can get together with them and share.

    I can not comment on the thyroid and liver concerns and advise that you continue to get advice from your GP.

    Make sure too that you look after yourself, you are your daughters role model and it is important that you show good self care and do not replicate her distructive behaviour.

  • Thanks. I am a dance teacher and therefore work after school. So I guess life has always been a bit chaotic. My daughter loves dancing but is always comparing herself. I realise that I can't be the 100% support she needs if I'm not there!

    So I am finding a replacement and stopping work, and I have suggested that we all ( i have 2 younger daughters) take some time out from dancing and see what life can be like without it. I don't think the erratic meal times can help, and if this is her coping strategy, maybe having a little less to cope with and a little more routine will help?

    I know it seems drastic, I hope I am doing the right thing. I have told her that she doesn't have to give it up, it's just a break to see life on the other side. X

  • Professional help is the right way to go. Your daughter's sharing that she has a problem was a big step for her - I know from experience sharing helped - but did not resolve the problem - I needed a great deal of help with this. Suggest you contact Anorexia and Bulimia Care - they have a parent support scheme and I'm sure you would find this helpful. Keep talking to your daughter - it may be that you can work out a plan to help her "control" things better - using my mum to help structure my meals helped - we had planned meal times and made sure I had activities between these which helped me. Does her school know? It may be there is a student counsellor who could come alongside her quicker than the ed specialist?

  • Thank you, that really helps. She had her meeting with the doctor yesterday, who told her about her blood results. She's a bit in shock, because of the impact it's having on her body, but also because even though she already had counselling for a year, it's the first time a professional has used the words eating disorder. She said she knows she has an ed, but to hear the doctor say it was hard.

    Bless her, it was a tough day, but at least she can't bury her head in the sand anymore. Doctor was great with her, and is referring her, but told her not to think about it until after Xmas. Its only a small step, but I feel that at least we're going in the right direction. X

  • Hi, I don't know exactly how you must be feeling, but I can certainly relate to how your daughter must be feeling. I'm 19 and have been suffering wit bulimia for over 7 years and have been to therapy in between that. I remember when my parents found out and they wouldn't stop asking me questions about it, asking why etc and it was the hardest thing to listen to because I didn't know what to say. They knew my deepest secret (and being a young teen at the time) I thought the world was ending and there wasn't anything else to live for! It was staring me right in the face but I somehow felt like I still had to protect my secret. Every meal time (even years later when they think im recovered) I feel anxious incase they bring it up and its always in the back of my mind, its the worst feeling. What im trying to say is, your daughter must be feeling so bad right now, even if she says she wants rid of her ed and promises its gone, she secretly wants to hold on because its a part of her and that's going to be the hard part. I know for me, what I needed was someone to take back the control. My therapist advised my parents to have set meals and sit down at the table as a family and stay at the table for a little while after discussing the day. Also, encourage your daughter to help prepare the food, enjoy and don't make it a scary thing! I hate it when people watch me eat or comment in how much or how little iv eaten to try and relax, encourage coping strategies and keep it calm. you could possible give her an activity to do after to distract her- homeowork or bonding time? Another thing that people without eating disorders don't realise is that when you tell an anorexic or bulimic they are 'looking good' etc, it sends their mind into overdrive and all these thoughts start running round, so don't comment. if she asks, you could say things such as 'you always look beautiful,' at first anyways. always be supportive and remind your daughter that your not ashamed or embarrassed etc by her and that all you want is to help her get better- ask her how she wants you to help!!! You could suggest that you plan the weeks meals together so it not as scary and try not to keep all the binge food in the house. But still offer her a chocolate bar etc after a meal or as a snack so food like that doesn't become 'bad' but is being controlled by you.

    Remember though that its not your fault and your daughter needs you to be strong for both of yous. Good luck and feel free to ask about anything else!!!x

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