To parents new to the upside-down world of eating disorders: good news. Things really ARE better now, and the pace of change is no longer glacial.

In 2002, when my daughter became ill, no one talked about Family-Based Maudsley treatment, it was difficult to find ANY reading material that did not blame parents or tell them to back off, and I felt almost a heretic saying I didn't believe I, or any parent, caused a child's eating disorder.

It is changing. This week I was encouraged to join the Academy for Eating Disorders as an affiliate member by two leaders in the organization. They wanted me to know that although it may not have been the attitude in the past, AED now wants the stakeholders at the table in this way. So I did.

But perhaps a greater indication is this: AED has published my video, Do Parents Cause Eating Disorders? on their web site. This is an amazing statement of support for all of us.

There is much to do, and much to change, but with more of us at the table I am optimistic.


  1. I didn't even know there was an academy for ED's.
    I know you'll be a valuable asset to the group. I can't think of anyone who has a more important message to share. Go Laura!

  2. Laura,

    I think you deserve the Nobel Prize for what you have accomplished. I am not kidding. You are one incredible person, parent and mother--and you have reached out to all of the rest of us out of your compassion, concern and deep desire to see things change. We have a united voice, a clear path to heal our own pain through this jungle. Even if you never get a Nobel Prize for what you are accomplishing, I would give you one if I could. It's nothing short of remarkable.
    Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

  3. Laura,

    I keep thinking of more I want to say. You are also very well spoken. I can think of no one more capable of representing the concerns of parents than you are. We will support you 100%--and if you don't feel we are, please just ask.
    One of the things that I think you are so good at is taking the best of the research and putting it to practical use. And, like the little boy who shouted "the Emperor has no clothes!..." you are very good at pointing out and throwing aside those old myths that do no one any good. Perhaps you are afraid at times, but you speak up anyway. That is true courage. Thanks.

  4. Congratulations - it's well deserved and a step along the way to better understanding and treatment for all

  5. I need to stop reading your blog. But like a moth to a flame, I keep coming here. Maybe like I keep trying to gain my father's acceptance that I will never gain.

    I don't know why it is that I feel judged as an eating disordered patient everytime I read your writings ... like it's my fault ... in order to absolve the parents ... it places all the fault on that of the patient.

    Your comment that no parent ever had a fault ... is discounting many of us ...and devaluing many of us in our recovery process.

    *YOU* may not be at fault. There may be many like you.

    There very well may be a genetic link, my therapist, psychiatrist and nutritionist strongly think there is and that I have the gene ...

    However my environment all but assured that the gene was activated. Between being sexually abused as I entered my teen years (by non family member)
    and my father's treatment of me, and my mother's neglect ... it did set me up ... clearly.

    You cannot tell me that my father telling me ..while I was 5 pounds UNDERWEIGHT ...that I could not wear shorts because "obese little girls do not wear shorts"
    that it did not have an effect.

    You cannot tell me that when my mother found out that I was starving myself ..that her crying to her counselor, but ignoring me ... and doing nothing (and yet, she worked as a clinical social worker at the time with a degree in education for the emotionally disturbed)had no effect.

    Being told by my mother "you'd be pretty if only you didn't have such a chubby face" and by my father "your sister has such classic model features, but you're just fat"
    (again, the doctors were telling him I was UNDERWEIGHT, DO SOMETHING!) had no effect on me.

    You keep saying no parent can ever be blamed ...and yet ... yes, some parents DO have blame.
    My father's mother was overweight and to my father ..the biggest sin someone can commit is being overweight ...he changed churches because the pastor was overweight!!!

    I understand your need to say "it's not my fault" but to say that no parent is at fault ..ever ...devalues the recovery process of some of us who were treated rather abusively by our parents ...

    abuse can and does play a role in eating disorders ...

    It has a genetic trigger ... but environment certainly, in some cases, although not all ... can trigger it ...

  6. This is so damn FANTASTIC Laura!

    -Congrats to You!

  7. This is to "dreaming again". I am sorry for what you have experienced. No one needs to hear hurtful things, that's for sure. And, truthfully, I have never heard anything but compassion from Laura. Maybe you come here because you do hear hope and caring coming from parents. I don't know. Just a guess.

    I have heard Laura say many things: that it is important to separate the illness from the true, real person; that people with ED's are NOT to blame; that, as much work as it is for parents, it is far MORE work for the young person trying to heal. I have also heard her say that there are all sorts of families whose children develop ED's--both 'good and bad' (and I realize that is a pretty black and white description of families in and of itself).

    I am sure that your illness did have an effect on your mother. Perhaps her crying to her counselor was simply that she did not know how best to help you. Parents get a lot of mixed messages from the medical establishment and it leaves you bewildered (I speak from experience). It doesn't necessarily mean she didn't care about you or doesn't love you.

    I am sure that there are a number of triggers in the genetically susceptible person. But blame is devastating all the way around. It doesn't allow anyone to heal.

  8. Anne, if my mother had cried for me, then I might agree with you. But my mother had cried 'poor me'. When she found out that I'd found my step father when he committed suicide, not just his note ...she did not put me in counseling then either ...that is when she started herself in counseling.

    She still, to this day, will tell my story to get herself sympathy. IF she ever used any of it to improve, or to do anything but to get attention for herself, than I might agree with you, however, she has not.

    I don't know what I've come here expecting to find. I guess, the perspective is different from patient to parent. I do know, that as a 43 year old patient ..and a mother of teenagers ... my perspective is QUITE different than that of a teenage or young adult patient.

    It the part of the sentence that said "I didn't believe I, or any parent, caused a child's eating disorder." that caused me to comment ...

    I know of 2 young girls with very very loving, caring, parents ... who have eating disorders, they have not had any kind of PTSD ... I am well aware that there are many cases that are not caused by issues like mine.

    My point was, simply, that in reading the posts, that Laura discounts that the trauma, and bad parenting EVER causes or triggers ED's ... and it simply is not the case. In discounting the possibility of trauma or bad parenting ...she discounts the recovery process for those of us who have truly experienced these and have used the eating disorder to as an unhealthy coping mechanism for our lives.

  9. Dreaming again. . .

    I can relate to these feelings when I read many of Laura's writings. I don't know either way.

    My parents tried Maudsley and became physically/verbally abusive and are alcoholics -- the approach didn't work for me and only really served to drive me further into my ED out of spite.

    Only when I entered a program and recovery became my own responsibility did I actually begin to recover for me.

    However, that is not to say Maudsley doesn't work for anyone -- there is just something about it that terrifies me because of what I endured during that treatment -- I lurk on this blog, Harriet's and Carries -- in addition to Laura's forum -- It's part of my daily ritual on the computer

    I think there IS some merit to traditional therapy just as there is some merit to Maudsley. I think it would be best if they were combined -- there are pros and cons to both.

    Just some thoughts, as usual.


  10. When I say no parent can cause an eating disorder - any more than we cause our child's leukemia - I don't mean to simply move the blame. An eating disorder isn't a weakness, or a choice, or succumbing to outside pressures - it is a real illness. I don't think ANYONE is to blame.

    This is separate from whether one has good parents or not. Bad parents and bad parenting are a reality. You don't need to have an eating disorder to have my support in condemning bad and abusive parenting. We shouldn't need to have an eating disorder to get help for the horrific parenting you describe.

    It is true, I don't believe the worst parenting in the world causes a brain disorder, nor does the best parenting in the world prevent it. But separating those issues doesn't mean I don't think parenting matters, nor does it mean ED patients should just suffer with toxic environments "because it didn't cause it."

    Does it dishonor someone's recovery to say I don't believe their illness was caused by what they think caused it? No, but I'm sorry it feels that way. I respect you, and the admirable WORK every patient must do to recover, but I cannot advise others to follow a path based on blaming and on the past that I believe has cause immeasurable suffering and demonstrable damage to countless families and patients.

    Cause matters because it guides recovery. Blaming the patient used to be standard. Blaming parents has also been common. Now we blame society. I don't think any of those approaches has a good track record, and I think it is because we were wrong.

    My advocacy work is about letting parents know that they can set aside guilt and blame so they can do their best job supporting their ill children. It has never been to blame the victim or let parents off the hook.

    My daughter deserved my support based on the severity and requirements of her illness. And believe me when I say I have never let myself off the hook.

  11. I agree Laura, that parents don't CAUSE ED's but may be a contributing factor if the child is predisposed.

    For example, mental illness, anxiety, depression and substance abuse is common in my family history --I am undoubtably predisposed.

    However, my family situation did not help. That is not to say my family cannot be part of my recovery.

    I don't know where I stand here.


  12. "I agree Laura, that parents don't CAUSE ED's but may be a contributing factor if the child is predisposed."

    THAT ... was the point I was trying to make ...

  13. Sry!

    My posting is making me look dumb?!

  14. a :),

    You are always welcome here, and sound fine!

    I'll forward your message to Carrie's email to make sure she sees it.

  15. Dreaming and a :),

    That difference between cause and trigger and sustaining factors is really important, so I think we're really getting somewhere when we parse this out.

    Cause means "had you not done/been X, your child would not be ill."

    Trigger means "had your child not been biologically vulnerable to this factor, your child would not be ill."

    And sustaining means "if you commit to doing X from here on in, your child has a better chance at full recovery."

    It is a huge difference. (I still think NO CHILD should have to live with parental ill treatment whether they have an ED or not)

  16. closer to common ground on that ...far closer to common ground.

    No, I do not think the parents CAUSE it. I do think there is a genetic link ...but I do think, in many, but not all, there are environmental triggers ... and as you say sustaining factors ...

    I guess my issue is ...

    and there probably isn't an answer.

    The parents you're trying to reach ...the ones who've done it all right ..who DIDN'T trigger, contribute ... are the hardest ones to get too ...

    the ones like my parents ...are all too willing to take the flag and run with it ... SEEEEEEEEEE It's NOT MY FAULT!!!! NOW FEEL SORRRY FOR MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE because what's her name ...ohy yea, my um ...oh yea, my daughter has an eating disorder!

    (yes, I'm exeaggerating for a purpose)

    my thoughts won't come together for tonight. My mother has had a heart attack and, is in the hospital. I'm home for the night, to check on my husband and take care of my sons. I'll go back up first thing in the morning.
    Amazingly ... I ate 2 meals today.
    My health scare either scared the beeeeejejejejejejepers out of me ... or .. mom's heart attack did ...because I'm eating.

  17. Dreaming,

    Sending healing thoughts to you and your family in this tough time!!



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