You Can’t Do It Alone: Why Parents Are the Key to ED Recovery

Why is it that we deprive anorexic children & adolescents from their families when they need them the most?
Why is it that we deprive anorexic children & adolescents from their families when they need them the most?

 

In 2011 I was a naive 13 year old whose physical was declining with each passing day. Within a matter of just a couple of short months, I had lost 20 pounds off my already slender body. The cause of this dramatic weight-loss was not some serious physical ailment, but a fatal illness with a psychological origin – anorexia nervosa.

On March 1st of that year, my desperate and worried parents did what they thought was best – they admitted me to Rogers Memorial Hospital, a psychiatric institution who claimed to have a remarkable eating disorder program.  Unfortunately it was a choice they would soon regret.

For the three torturous months I was trapped there, I was deprived of my god-given right to have parental contact.  I considered it a blessing if I was granted the “privilege” to actually see my family on the weekend.  I clearly remember longing for one of my mother’s warm hugs or the calming sound of my father’s low voice. Ultimately, this severe deprivation of familial contact resulted in me turning to depression and anger to cope.  This poor coping strategy not only resulted in my Rogers treatment team robbing me of more privileges, but it also stunted my ability to end my abusive relationship with ED.

By the time of my discharge, my parents were visibly disappointed in the ineffective treatment I received at Rogers. Though I did force myself to ingest the food I was served at home, my parents and I both knew I did this solely to prevent re-hospitalization.  I didn’t enjoy the scrumptious taste of my dad’s cooking like I once did.

Over the 2 and 1/2 years since my discharge, I have relapsed multiple times. Though none of these times resulted in a trip to the loony-bin, there were many times when I knew I was very close to it. I am not the only one from Rogers who has relapsed.  Every single one of the other girls I went to treatment with, have also experienced a countless amount of relapses. This just proves that the futile treatment program at Rogers Memorial Hospital is nothing but a waste of money.

Due to this scarring experience, I have come to conclusion that the only effective way for children and adolescents to be saved from ED is by utilizing family-based treatment method, like Maudsley. Unlike more typical eating disorder treatment methods, Maudsley is an intensive outpatient program where the parents are considered the key to their child’s recovery.  At the beginning stages of treatment, parents (who are guided by therapists and health professionals that understand the Maudsley Approach) are given FULL CONTROL over the food their child consumes. They also have the duty of aiding their child through the difficult process of weight restoration. This first phase, known as Phase 1, can last to up to 12 months and is dedicated solely to rebuilding the ill child’s physical health.  An anorexic child graduates to phase 2 of treatment when the they come to terms with the fact that they must eat a calorie-dense diet and gain a sufficient amount of weigh in order to prevent hospitalization. The family must also present a positive change in overall mood. The goal of Phase 2 is for the parents to guide their child as they learn to take more control over their eating.  Phase 3, or the final phase of treatment, is focused on helping the child establish an identity other than being an “anorexic”.  A patient is considered to be at this phase once they are a weight that is 95% of their ideal body weight and have eliminated ED behaviors from his/her daily life.

Now don’t get me wrong, this is not an easy treatment for both the patient and the parents. It requires the patient’s parent’s utmost dedication and determination, but it is well worth it. Research has shown that anorexic children and adolescents who were treated with Maudsley are less likely to relapse than those treated with the typical inhumane forms of ED treatment, like what you would receive at Rogers.

All in all, I would highly recommend looking into the Maudsley Approach if you are a parent of an anorexic child. Not only is this therapy more likely to save your child from life of ED’s abuse, it is also cheaper and allows your child to receive the love & support they require at this trying time. If you would like to learn more about the Maudsley Approach, please check out the links below. Until then, remember to keep moving forward!

Infomational Links

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4 thoughts on “You Can’t Do It Alone: Why Parents Are the Key to ED Recovery

  1. Thanks for sharing this. I remember when I was a teen and went inpatient for my ED it was a lot like your experience in that I didn’t see my family for long periods of time. I think a more whole approach is the best way to address this and that doesn’t matter what age you are. I have built up a network of people to help me with my current battle (I’ve relapsed once again) which includes friends, my therapist, nutritionist, and my sister Casz who also battles an ED. It’s not always the family you’re born in but the family you build for yourself…

    1. What a powerful comment! I absolutely love what you just said as these are some of the wisest words I’ve ever heard!

    1. I am too. We are currently doing a “modified” version of Maudsley where there is less of a focus on weight and more of a focus on rebuilding my relationship with food. My parents think by focusing on relearning how to eat and discovering that food is an essential part of life, my weight will work it’s way up. So far, that plan has been working quite well. Though my weight gain is much slower than what I think most Maudsley programs want, I am steadily gaining a healthy amount of weight.
      Though gaining weight is hard, this modified version of Maudsley has helped me stop hating food and start being able to tackle my ED thoughts on my own.

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