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When is it time for a parent to intervene in an adult child's eating obsession?


Hi: It is difficult to watch


It is difficult to watch anyone struggle with an eating disorder, but especially so when it is a child, regardless of age. When a young child is suffering from a dangerous and potentially life threatening illness, it is expected that you would jump in and try to fix things. When it is an adult child, the parent is in a somewhat different situation. However, there are some steps you can take which will definitely help.

The most important thing to remember is that you want to try and build a trusting, supportive relationship with the person struggling with an eating disorder. People with anorexia nervosa, bulimia, or any other eating obsession generally suffer from shame, guilt, and low self-esteem. It is not productive to blame or shame the person into eating properly. Keeping the lines of communication open and being honest about your concern for your adult child’s health will promote a safe, caring, and supportive relationship which will enable you to encourage your adult child to seek treatment.

Eating disorders are serious and complex illnesses which require professional treatment. Appropriate care from health professionals who specialize in eating disorders will provide the best hope of recovery. As a parent of an adult child, you can play an important role in this process. Educating yourself on eating disorders and providing non-judgemental support are vital steps. Of course, if your adult child should become medically unstable or suicidal, immediate intervention is required, and you should call 911.

Supporting a family member with an eating disorder can be stressful for you! Don’t forget to look after yourself as well, and take the time to re-focus on other things as well as the person with an eating obsession. Some parents find counseling and/or support groups very helpful for their own wellbeing, and to connect with others in similar circumstances. Wishing you well.