But, it must be my fault. I saw it on Oprah!

This has been a very exciting week here at EWYA. Hundreds of people have viewed the video of clips from eating disorder experts asked "Do Parents Cause Eating Disorders."

One parent said "naturally, I am crying." another said "I've forwarded this on to someone who needs it. And will do so again and again."

(And by the way, the answer to the question was "No.")

So the next question is: "Do Parents Feel Guilty?" and "Why?"

Parents: please send me your quotes, or audio or video clips, telling me if, and why, you feel or felt guilty about your child's eating disorder. Send me quotes from web sites, books, or clinicians that fed this feeling.

And then tell me what helped you feel better.


  1. Congratulations, Laura, on creating such a helpful tool.

    As to your second question, of course parents feel guilty. Mostly what I feel guilty about is for not seeing the anorexia sooner. Other people told me afterward that "of course" they'd known my d had a problem, but in my ignorance I did not realize until nearly full-blown anorexia kicked in. I feel guilty as hell over that.

    But not over the fact that my d became anorexic. I'm clear about the fact that I didn't cause that.

  2. Guilty because:

    They separated us from my 13 year old daughter for the first month of her inpatient hospitalization. We weren't allowed to "join" her until after that time (and my daughter was hospitalized over 1,000 miles away from home). We called and wrote every day. She ignored (at least outwardly) our letters and calls. So much for long distance telephone therapy twice a week. When we flew down at week 5, she decided she didn't want to talk to us or see us. They gave her full control and we were banished. I sat in the lobby, ignored by my daughter and staff, sobbing. I knew in my heart that this was all wrong. I'd thought about pulling her out, but was scared I couldn't handle her starving herself and knew that most important of all was that she be in a place that could refeed her. I was scared I would fail at doing it on my own--and I'd never heard of Maudsley. I'd argued that I be allowed to remain near her and see her daily, but was told that it was easier for a young person to "get to the real reasons they'd stopped eating if they didn't have to look their parents in the eye". So much for parents perhaps having a useful love bond that might actually make it easier for a child to talk and eat. I needed compassion too and I sure didn't seem to be getting it. I was told to go home, gather my strength, take time for myself, "go read a racy novel", etc. If this doesn't sound both like a "get lost", a "you're over involved" and a "you're to blame", I'm not sure what does. If I had to do it over, I wouldn't do it this route, that's for sure. I had very little idea what to expect, but I didn't expect elimination. I am angry and reeling still 5 years later. I am sure I can tell you much, much more about why I feel this way, but THIS, first and foremost, comes to mind.

  3. I also just realized I am supposed to say what helped me feel better:

    • the biggest thing was, of course, watching my daughter's gradual return to physical and mental well being

    • finding Laura's support site

  4. Guilty? Yes. My family member was admitted to Center for Change www.centerforchange.com in 2006. The CFC Family Resource Guide includes the following: Something is "wrong" in every family where there is an eating disorder; EDs are substitutes for "missing functions which should have been, but were not, supplied in childhood;" "caregivers who do not properly comfort and soothe their babies, allowing them to eventually learn how to comfort themselves, create lacks in their children's ability to self-soothe," which can lead to an eating disorder; factors in causing anorexia include "family closeness that may unkowingly foster over dependence;" other causes include "distant" relationships with fathers and "smothering" relationships with parents; parents should consider writing a "Letter of Regret" to their adolscents with an eating disorder, "stating what they would do differently if they had the chance to raise their children again." The therapists who run CFC don't have any significant training in neuroscience, genetics, exercise physiology, or other scientific disciplines relevant to treating anorexia nervosa. They are hostile when those subjects are brought up. One CFC therapist sent me an e-mail saying he finds "problematic" what he calls the "medical model hegemony." He said his treatment approach, on the other hand, is influenced by the philosopher C. Terry Warner. Warner is a professor at BYU who does not seem to have any training in the treatment of anorexia. Warner's main interest appears to be writing and speaking out against same--sex marriage. Initially, the "parents are to blame" approach led me to experience feeling of extreme guilt. I lost confidence in my abilities as a parent. Then, however, I read hundreds of the scientific articles on anorexia published by real scientists and available on www.pubmed.gov I realized the CFC model, which views AN as a psychosocial pathology caused or contributed to by parents and families, is outdated and lacking in evidentiary support. After CFC was not willing or able to answer our questions about the biological underpinnings of AN, my family member left CFC after 10 weeks. After leaving, she made great progress in recovery. Inpatient "treatment" at CFC costs $975 per day. What helped me the most in overcoming the initial feelings of guilt was to learn about the most up-to-date scientific evidence concernig anorexia. That evidence does not support blaming the parents.

  5. I wonder, did my parents cause my hypothyroidism? I mean life wasn't perfect. I was the oldest girl and had so much responsibility. My parents weren't warm and cozy people.

    Guilt? Me? Of course, I looked under every rug, cushion, and between the pages. I knew my faults and weaknesses. I told her that IF I or anyone else did something then please forgive me/us BUT make sure that you get better anyway, no matter what obstacles people tell you are in the way. I told her to honor herself because that was her one job in life. She had to choose herself over her ED and fight.

    Does this mean I blamed myself or others? Nope. But I am well aware of how society thinks and I wanted to arm her well so all her energy was for the fight.
    Shame on anyone who asks someone to focus on a 'wrong' for years and years while they stay in a semi starved state of mind. This, to me, is an assault on a patient and on our loved one. This is cruel and damaging. I would think that it goes against the "do no harm" vow.
    Some ED's take longer to heal but it really shouldn't be because we stood in the way asking questions forcing them to say "uncle" before we deal with helping them.
    Put recovery first. Restore the deficiencies so that thinking is clearer. Treat depression. Then see if there are other ways we can help if needed.
    As parents and carers we need to find our own strengths!

    That's my vent today Laura. I will be thinking on the video thing. Go ahead and quote me!

  6. i have just come from a family therapy meeting when we were going over old ground about why I got so upset when my child was admitted to a the unit there last year.

    After I had got distressed about some thing (I have forgotten what) the consultant asked me if "I knew how ill my child was"

    Previously that year my child had been admitted to Hospital weighing under 4 stone (she is 5' 6'') near death - unable to left her head - I helped with her care - staying up all night as you could not see her breath, cleaning her - though there was little body to clean - I could go on - but to ask me if I knew how ill she i found instantly insulting - as though they thought I didn't care - had not noticed and was somehow to blame

    No-one ever actually blames you but nor do they tell you it is not your fault - so comments like this you are just left to intepret in your own way


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