Give an inch, take a milestone

"'You would think if parents are helping, the kids would be less impaired,' Merlo said. 'But what we are seeing is that it snowballs and makes it worse and worse.'

"Facilitating children's OCD behaviors may worsen symptoms

This goes for eating disorders as well, clearly. When parents accommodate the "no dressing!" "no meat!" "no food after 5!" "only at 150 degrees!" "I can't drink whole milk" or "I can't eat with so-and-so in the room" we are so ready for them to agree to eat we can become accommodating to other demands. This doesn't decrease the demands, though, it makes them worse.

If I could give every parent a message early on in supporting recovery it would be this: do what you know they need, not what they say. Don't accommodate ED no matter what threats or cajoling he does. Be firm, consistent, and have a plan.


  1. How true! Our instinctive behavior as parents is to help our kid who is having problems. This usually works fine with our normal kids, but for those with mental illness, it can backfire. When a child resists strongly and over time what he/she needs, it is time to call in the professionals for help. Making acommodations, while it is the path of least resistance at the time, actually reinforces the child's belief that it is too scary and difficult to do whatever it is that he is afraid of. And it spirals downward from there. This can happen with EDs, OCD, social anxiety, school phobia and other mental illnesses, too.

  2. There's this fantastic article from the Obsessive-Compulsive Foundation's teen magazine "Organized Chaos," titled Parents Can Assist Teenagers in OCD Treatment that is also really good.

    It's hard to understand that having compassion for the sufferer is not the same as accomodating the illness- in fact, it's the exact opposite. Kind of the illustration of "you have to be cruel to be kind."

  3. It is so true, and yet for parents who are not used to authoritarian parenting styles it is such a hard lesson to learn. My husband was brought up in a very top-down, do as we say, type of house hold and really wanted to raise his kids differently -- with respect, letting them have a say in things, etc. However when confronted with ed, this style of parenting only added to the misery we were all feeling. I found it easier to adjust my parenting style, but it was still hard! Now I just put on my robot voice, "I'm sorry, this is what we are doing!" It works, but it ain't easy!

  4. Something that immediately comes to mind: there's a reason we don't negotiate with terrorists.

    You can't afford to give them so much leverage, so much credibility. By keeping a consistent stance that the ed/pirates/kidnappers etc are never going to have their demands met, we can (hopefully) prevent such threats/demands from happening in the future.

    I screamed this at a therapist who once asked me to try to figure out the feelings behind not wanting dinner. I felt the feelings were crazy & discussing such nonsense only gave them merit.

    The treatment center disagreed & said I was trying to "eat my way out of the hospital."

    I don't know what they hoped I'd gain there-- but I did gain enough nutritional stability to keep moving forward.

    I still don't see a reason to barter with the ED. I don't want to live in some uncomfortable co-existence with anorexia.


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