A Growing Trend

May 4, 2008 – 4:42 pm

 By Dr Irina Webster

I have noticed a growing trend in the emails I receive from people asking for help with eating disorder problems. It has become obvious that something is terribly wrong with the normal medical approach to helping eating disorder sufferers.I would like to share with you just some of the pleas for help I get so you can see what I mean. 

Dear Doctor
My daughter is away at university she had a week to go before the end of the term/academic year.  Her weight is very low (under 5 stones) and although she has some help (psychiatrist/art therapy/dietician) she is really struggling and desperate for some rest bite and help but the resources available are scarce and a hospital admission initially to a medical ward is what is most likely to happen.  Over the years she has had 3 admission to specialist units where she has gained weight over many month only to lose it all once she resumes independent living.  She does not believe another hospital admission would really help but to be honest she is getting so ill she may not have a choice”.

Here is another email from a desperate mother.

Dear Doctor
I am a mother who has a 17 year-old daughter suffering from bulimia and anorexia.  She is receiving no help whatsoever from our doctor or counseling services here in Northern Ireland. It fact she seems to be getting worse although she is under treatment. I can’t understand what is happening can you help me please”. I receive many of emails like these from people who just can’t understand why their love one is finding it so hard to recover even though they are under medical supervision.
And I will explain the reasons in a moment but first here is another plea from a grandmother I received. 

Hi Doctor
I hope I am not fussing too much but we are so desperate as my granddaughter is rapidly going downhill with really bad tantrums etc., and is so thin and won’t eat hardly anything, we are all in despair and so scared for her health she continues to lose 2lb every week she has been seeing councilors and the weight loss has increased since then. We cannot understand why she is getting worse, we thought she would get better after seeing a counselor

Another cry for help. 

Dear Doctor
I have just finished speaking to my brother and sister-in-law who are at a crisis point in trying to deal with their daughter’s anorexia. Alice says they are both beyond hell and do not know how to recover the lives of their daughter or themselves. I suspect it is putting immense strain on their marriage as well. 
Their 16 year old daughter knows what the condition is doing to her but is powerless to ignore the voices in her head telling her to do the opposite of everything that will help get her better. She is critically thin and starting to be suicidal. After the phone call I got on line and was lead to you.  I do not know how else to help. They are on that dreadful treadmill of Doctors, hospitals and counselors, today they have been told by the doctors to go to her school and sit with her while she eats her lunch!! This is no life.

There is a reason why all these people are understandably confused and it stems from the lack real understanding of the condition by conventional medical practice in treating eating disorders.

Most eating disorder specialists are highly trained and very competent it looking after sufferers and most of the doctors I have talked to are equally baffled by the results they are getting.  

One of the main things you have to understand is eating disorders are not logical so you can not treat them with logic. An eating disorder is all about feelings and emotions and these are certainly not logical.

You can’t counsel a person by pointing out they could die from their disorder: most already know this but still cannot change.

Sitting around just listening to the sufferer talk about how they feel, or asking them to keep charts on what they eat is only making them focus on their ED even more.  Getting them involved in group therapy does not work in most cases either. In fact this can cause more problems that it fixes as sufferers can get attached to the group. They make friends with other sufferers and then if they get better they have to leave all their friends, so they choose not to get better.

So what is the remedy for the sufferer and their families?

The only way to beat an eating disorder is by attacking the eating disorder where it lives and that is in the subconscious mind of the sufferer.

To do this you have to reprogram the mind of the sufferer by using positive input.This does not simply mean just trying to think positive or telling them self that everything is rosy, because this does not work either.What you need is a specific method and set of exercises that are tailor made to change the way the sufferer sees them self and thinks about them self. A treatment method that helps the sufferer defeat the voices in their head that is leading them down the dark path that is their eating disorder.

One of the best places to start finding out about this kind of treatment method is an www.mom-please-help.com written by a mother who battled for years to save her daughter’s life when all else failed.

I have seen the results first hand myself and was very impressed with the high success rate sufferers had when they followed the program.  


  1. This is my web blog for my book project on the symbolic nature of anorexia nervosa and cutting.

    Most of the information on my site talks about what is wrong with the present theories on self-harming behaviour.

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