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12 year old dd - could this be early signs of anorexia? Any advice please help...

9 replies

milestogo · 14/01/2012 22:29

I'm getting desperately worried that my yr 7 dd is showing signs of early anorexia. She eats but in a controlled and obsessed way. She has always had a v healthy appetite and used to eat anything. Now she wants small portions, says she hate things (chocolate, toast, roast lamb all the good things), and after v small meals says she feels really full. She also talks about food a lot of the time -- loves cooking but won't eat much of what she's made. She's getting thin. People have started noticing, not because she's unusually thin, but because she is thinner (and a lot taller) than before.
She is also v anxious about school. She has recently started at a highly selective girls grammar school. She works very hard and obsesses about homework and tests. Bites her nails and gets tearful at times.
On the plus side...she has good friends, does lots of sports and loves spending time with the family. I've spoken to her class teacher who says she seems completely fine at school -- coping well and very popular.
I could really do with don't know how much to make of the eating thing. I worry if I make a big deal, she will get stubborn and it will become a bigger problem. But if I don't, will it get worse anyway?

OP posts:
Hassled · 14/01/2012 22:34

Have you spoken to her about it? How is she in terms of puberty - periods started etc?

It's a tough one and I really feel for you. When my DD was a similar age I had the opposite (but not really) problem - she was overweight and eating for England, but I worried that if I made a big deal of it it would wreck her self-esteem and so she would overeat more. Or become anorexic. I said nothing but just sort of guided her eating as much as I could - and now she's an overweight adult, and I probably should have said/done more when I had more control over things. So talk to her - say that you're worried, ask what's on her mind, see what you can do to reduce the levels of anxiety (moving school?). Not in a big deal sort of way, but in a "I'm your mum and I'm here to help" way.

ReneeVivien · 14/01/2012 22:40

I'm sorry, but yes - if she was my daughter I would be worried, too. I developed anorexia at the same age as your dd. The warning bells in your post come from the food control, food obsession, interest in cooking, anxiety and perfectionism. And, frankly, the fact that she attends an academic girls school. The fact that she is eating does not mean there is not a problem: I never stopped eating, or even went much below 1000 calories a day, but I ate 1000 calories a day for YEARS.

The good news is that at her age, swift intervention can really get this sorted. Please don't worry that if you make a big deal it will get worse: although her behaviour is designed to send the message that she is autonomous and in control and she won't welcome your intervention, behind that she is a frightened little girl who really wants someone to notice her pain and reach out to help her. (She won't tell you this, though!) Be warned that she will come up with lots of plausible explanations at how very wrong you are (anorexics are good at this). Trying to force her to eat won't help - if you spend every mealtime screaming and pleading, it will set up some awful dynamics for your family. But you don't need to collude with her story, either, or pretend you believe what she is telling you.

She will need to go with you to her GP for referral for specialist treatment, but even before that I would contact beat, the eating disorders charity, for advice. You might also find it useful to do some background reading so you can understand the disease: I found Hunger Strike by Marilyn Laurence very good.

Very best of luck to you.

milestogo · 14/01/2012 22:41

Thanks for this -- food and eating is such a tricky issue. I've always prided myself on encouraging both DDs to eat healthily (no sugary cereals, fizzy drinks etc) and explained why. But God I wish now I'd been more relaxed! My family tends to be mildy overweight so I've probably been too concerned the other way.
I've talked to her quite a bit about her anxiety about school, but she doesn't really say much. I think she can't articulate her confusing feelings at the moment. And I'm trying to reduce anxiety by making sure things are relaxed at home. But moving schools, could be a bit drastic and make things worse? I'd do it though if I was sure it would make her happier.

OP posts:
milestogo · 14/01/2012 22:45

Thanks ReneeVivien. I will contact Beat. But one more question for you. I'm sure my DD knows what anorexia is...should I discuss it with her?

OP posts:
NooneLikesAGreyjoy · 14/01/2012 22:49

I'm sorry, but it really does sound worrying. If I were you, I wouldnt push the issue (she is likely to become secretive about it, anorexics and bulimics are master manipulators and liars - I am a terrible liar about anything else) contact B-eat they can give you specialist advice and speak to your gp.

good luck, and if you want to talk offboard, please PM me.

ReneeVivien · 14/01/2012 22:59

Yes, milestogo, I think you should. Even if the conversation goes nowhere, I think you should tell her you are concerned by what you see (her controlled eating, losing weight, seeming anxious), that you love her and are very worried that if she is not anorexic already, that she may be on the path to it. She will probably then tell you you are ridiculous, that there is nothing wrong. And you can then say, well maybe you're right and I'm wrong, but I would feel very reassured if we could see the doctor together. Would you do that for me? If she says no, you might then say: I won't make you go now, but I am your mum and it's my job to make sure you stay healthy and well. So I have to warn you that if you keep losing weight I'm going to bring this up again. I love you and I will fight for what's right for you, even if it makes you cross.

She needs to hear that you love her but that you will not let her destroy herself. It will be a difficult conversation and she will not thank you for it, but I truly believe she will be relieved to hear that somebody is taking notice.

Be strong: anorexia can be a horrendous chronic condition, but with a child as young as your dd it really is possible that you may just nip it in the bud. Do get proper professional advice, though.

ReneeVivien · 14/01/2012 23:02

Just wanted to add after Greyjoy's thread: I also agree that you shouldn't push it as such, but you don't want to ignore it either. You need to say it how you see it, and refuse to collude with her version of reality, but equally you don't want to get drawn into the anorexic dynamic, where the whole family is dominated by it and every mealtime is hell.

A child who is starving herself is very upsetting for everybody else, and this gives that child huge power that she may actually enjoy. Try to look after yourself and others in the family as well.

Sorry I'm going on so long on this thread. Anorexia was hell for me and my mum, and I do really feel for you. (Good news though is that I am fully recovered.)

milestogo · 14/01/2012 23:12

Thanks all very much. I will contact Beat and try and get to a doctor next week. I so hope I can nip this in the bud...

OP posts:
blameitonthecaffeine · 27/01/2012 21:39

I know this post is a coule of weeks old do you have an update?

I DEFINITELY think you are right to worry. I could have written your post almost word for word 2 years ago. But I didn't. I blinded myself to the problem. And now I have a Y9 13 year old who has been anorexic, severely so at times, for 2 years. She has spent many months on an EDU and we have been close to losing her.

You are obviously an amazing mum and it's great that you are acting so quickly. Early intervention is crucial.

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