Sometimes they throw things.

Parents are understandably shocked by the vehemence with which their recovering children fight back when the choice to starve, or purge, is taken away. Behavior and words we never, EVER believed our lovely children would display can surface during early recovery. Yelling, throwing, raging, threats, trying to jump out of cars, violence. Yes, this really does happen.

I am shocked at how few parents are warned about this. And a little mad.

These reactions are signs of the child's extreme distress, not that parents are doing the wrong thing by "making them eat."

What is wrong is letting children get sicker and weaker because they don't get violent. What is wrong is letting kids continue to be malnourished after diagnosis.

However hard it is on us to see them this distressed - it is always harder on them.

It is hell, and sending the child to suffer that hell out of our sight doesn't make it better. In fact, think about it: what would you think of your loved ones if they sent you away because they couldn't stand to see you in such distress. And how safe would you feel on your return?

If parents are not warned and are not prepared for extreme resistance they might feel there is no choice but to give in to the child or give the child over to others. There are choices between those options, and there are strategies, but the first tool is being prepared.


  1. Wow, Laura, you hit the nail on the head. This is EXACTLY what happened to me. I'd never experienced ANYTHING like this with my daughter before...and feared she might even be suicidal. My urge to "keep her safe", even if it meant physically having to keep her on a unit behind locked doors, won out over my trying to "deal" with the monster on my own. I had NO IDEA this was part and parcel of the illness and totally to be expected. The fall out for us? Yes, she stopped trusting us. It still hurts. We are still suffering from that. I needed someone to give me the encouragement, the knowledge, the "sword" to fight the beast. I backed down, to my regret. Don't let this happen to others.

  2. Anon,

    You put safety first - that is good parenting. A lot of families just back down and the malnutrition gets worse.

    There is a place for hospitalization - preferably brief, with an emphasis on creating a smooth transition home with safe supports and boundaries.

    You are a loving parent - the clinicians who didn't warn you about this are the ones I wonder about.

  3. Right on Laura. I'm a parent. I was not warned that EXTREME resistance to refeeding is common. In hindsight, and with the benefit of learning a lot about AN during the past two years, it's amazing to me that I did NOT know how violent the reaction to refeeding can be. But in the beginning I was naive. So I completely freaked out when the extreme behaviors began. I thought it was my fault. I assumed I was doing something wrong. I thought that continuing refeeding in our home was making everything worse. But maybe the extreme behavior was really just a natural part of the recovery process. Your advice is right on: be prepared and have a strategy to deal with behavior of a kind you have never seen before.

  4. Anonymous - please don't beat yourself up about needing the hospital for your daughter. We WERE warned to expect violent resistance. Our team gave us "Eating Disorders A Parents' Guide by Lask and Bryant-Waugh which describes such reactions and urges parents to put up with as much as they can take but to set safe limits. WE couldn't set those limits. The situation became dangerous for all of us. In the end, our daughter had to be re-fed within a hospital setting where the staff were able to manage it. It wasn't easy even then, but they could do it whereas we could not. I for one would like to see emphasis on improving hospital treatments and including parents and other carers in their treatment of loved ones AS WELL as home based care.

  5. And sometimes we throw things...

    A little over a month ago, I hit the lowest point on this ED journey with my daughter and I certainly found my own personal bottom. In a violent outburst of my own at the dinner table, I created quite a mess in response to my daughters oft heard cry "You dont understand". Slamming fists on the table, throwing my dinner plate with such force and wanting, with all of my being, to feel it shatter into a million shards against the kitchen wall. Not a moment I am proud of, but real. And then we moved on.

  6. Oh, boy, do I get that. Totally.

    The irony of them saying WE don't understand is sometimes just too hard to take.

    The moving on part is the key. I hate ED.


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