Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Anorexia and control

How many times have you read it or heard it: Anorexia is all about control. And its corollaries: People with anorexia have to choose to eat. Parents who try to make them eat have control issues.

Those of us who have used the Maudsley approach to help our children heal from eating disorders don't buy this. But the rest of the world still does.

I know a family that's had both kinds of treatment for their anorexic child. The mom put her finger on how each felt to her: "Anything less than Maudsley gets into really icky murky games. Maudsley is brutally hard but man it is all above board: parents want kids to eat. Period. What we've been doing instead is no less psychologically tense or painful."

That's exactly what I appreciate about the Maudsley approach: It's all right there out in the open. No hidden agendas, no submerged power struggles. Parents want their child to eat. They require it. They support it. Not out of a need to control, or boundary-crossing, or a wish to keep their child small, or any of the other accusations leveled at parents of anorexics.

We require our children to eat because we love them and want them to get better.

What could be wrong with that?

5 comments:

mary said...

By saying it's about control it's as if 'they' found an easy way to say, " 'we'll' do the work parents you can stand back and let the experts handle this." Perhaps this was born of a time when sufferers seemed to be more Hollywoods babies and their parents were off jet setting and a nanny raised the younguns. I think it's a natural instinct to want to take a baby/child that appears neglected and make sure it's fed and held so I don't blame anyone for fearing that the 'home' may have been the root cause of one's mental illness.Fair ? Nope, but understandable. Does this mean that we hold on to dated and perhaps self serving ideas and practices today when we know better? I hope not.
When it happened to MY daughter I knew for sure it wasn't about control. I know her, I don't own or control her. Control ? That's what the ED was taking, not me.
Taking back control and reaffirming herself was a HUGE part of healing from her ED. To say it was about a control issue though would be a terrible twist of what I feel a person needs to address on an inner level. The control my recovered daughter took was to invalidate her ED and any messages it thought it could take her down with. The added work on herself may be what slightly changed her on a cellular level, one which I hope has put up a guard forever against an ED invasion ever again.
Parents who manage to re-feed at home have nothing to defend and in my book are the true leaders in the changes that will help beat this disease. Those who are willing to trust their parents and take on the inner battle are also going to help many more than themselves. It's one of those fights where the more people one has in their corner who love them the better. Imagine if everyone supported everyone!
thanks for sharing on such a personal level Harriet. Great blog!

marcella said...

I agree, it would be great if everyone supported everyone! However life isn't always so accomodating, and some attempts at support backfire.

The system here in the UK IS different. We were 5 years into our daughter's illness and treatment before we got the "the eating disorder is about control" statement, and then it was from a "professional" who was backed into a corner (by me) and acting in a most unprofessional manner and he knew it!

Of course parents want their children to be well and happy, and of course that involves full nutrition, but some parents are going to need a lot more support than just being told they must do it. Taking control from a rampaging eating disorder is a difficult job, and, as Mary says, the more people one has in one's corner the better. Yes, parents are the best people to have in your corner, but it can sometimes be a good idea to have someone else as well or the parents droop a bit in the struggle.

Harriet Brown said...

So well put, both of you.

Support and control are very different concepts.

I can't understand anyone who has treated patients with an eating disorder not grasping the simple truth that someone with an e.d. is NOT in control, and that the purpose of treatment (aside from physical health and healing) is to return control of his/her life to that person.

I hope both of your daughters find strength and health, and are able to maintain it, with help from you and from others around you. It takes a whole village . . . so long as the village is offering love and support and not casting stones.

marcella said...

((I can't understand anyone who has treated patients with an eating disorder not grasping the simple truth that someone with an e.d. is NOT in control))

Exactly the point I made to the "professional" who was backed into the corner. The particular corner he was in was that although he was the Consultant Psychiatrist I was the one who knew about eating disorders - he knew VERY little and it showed.

mary said...

The setbacks that so many adults with ED's have is truly enraging, in light of the fact that it was their T's or Dr. who suggested to them it was about control and not to let other's have this over them. Nope, not if they can see them at a certain price for the next 20yrs. to discuss how it makes them feel! This was how my daughter's first and only T began treating her.
I did warn my d not to let ANYONE try to get in her way from beating her ED, not me, not the treatment center, and not herself. This helped her see that the way they treat today still lacks focus on just facing the most crucial part of recovery...eating, keeping food down, dealing with the relationship with food fears. It was normal that she hated the work but she faced it anyway. Then something great happened, she was able to find enjoyment in some of recovery as it involved the 'where am I going' part.[she created her own recovery after her restricting/bulimia was done] It got interesting. Her life didn't suck anymore! She's been in recovery for a few years. : )