Smart people with broken brains

"I kept seeing that he was still getting straight A's and keeping up in sports."

It is hard, at first, for parents to understand that a loved one is ill when they are still functioning so well at school, still running track, still so motivated to achieve and so articulate and focused. Logically, if malnutrition was damaging the person they would be weak and fuzzy-headed, right?

Lesson 3.5 in Eating Disorder Parenting:
The ability to focus and be motivated can be (temporarily) improved by semi-starvation. The "need" to stay in sports and achieve in school can be a symptom of being mentally UNwell. By the time malnutrition affects academics and even sports, your loved one may be permanently brain damaged or worse.
Put recovery before everything else. Refuse to enable any activities that interfere with recovery.


  1. This is a very important message, because I think one of the reasons ED cases are often led to progress so far is that people can be astoundingly functional at the same time they are destroying their bodies. When I look back at times when I was very severely restricting, I can't fathom how I had the physical or mental capacity to manage to do/achieve even half of what I did.
    Sometimes, also, I think people are very reluctant to seek treatment because it will disrupt school. Your grades are perfect, treatment will set you back academically, so why mess things up when you're obviously "managing?" Very dangerous illusion.

  2. When I was at my worst, I was the most motivated to achieve in school, work more hours than I needed and generally just liked staying busy. Looking back, I wonder how I did it. While recovering, I had to accept that I did not have that intense of a drive to accomplish as much as I did. I wasn't being lazy or non-productive...I was letting myself enjoy life.

  3. You both make important observations. And parents are really vulnerable here - our egos get caught up in the very things that can be warning signs... telling a parent to WORRY about a kid who is doing so well doesn't make me a lot of friends!

  4. Teachers must also find it quite difficult. In their advice to them the Institute of Psychiatry list hard work and attention to academic achievement as one of the tell tell signs of an eating disorder - hard for a teacher to discourage.


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