Monday 4 September 2017

To exercise or not to exercise? The dangers are real...

Having posted two posts about the problems we had with compulsive exercising when my son was suffering from anorexia - and having read through Dr Julie O'Toole's excellent article about the dangers of exercising with anorexia - I must add that, yes, there is a real danger that exercising can kill. There is no easy way to say this: eating disorders do kill and one of the biggest killers is heart failure. And we should know... My son ended up in hospital not once but twice with Bradycardia (abnormally slow pulse). So, knowing the potential dangers, why did we allow him to continue to exercise?

Really and truly I wanted my son to stop exercising altogether. Full stop. And, to be honest, I grimaced when our CAMHS nurse suggested that my son limit his exercise as a way of getting it under control.

Now, I don't know whether this was good advice or bad advice. I am no cardiologist. But I do know that, for months if not years, I worried myself sick that my son's heart would give up.

And this wasn't just me being over-anxious.

For us it was a case of 'being stuck between a rock and a hard place'. In our situation, I believe the only way we could have prevented my son from exercising would have been to mount a 24/7 watch on him, including those times when he'd go to the bathroom / toilet and all night... at school... everywhere...

His compulsion to exercise was so very strong that we would have had to chain him down.

And I believe this was why the CAMHS nurse suggested that we allow limited exercise as a means of getting it under control.

It was a risky decision, one that could have had disastrous results. But thankfully with us it worked and it helped my son to recover from the exercise addiction that was such a powerful element of his anorexia.

So, as I emphasised on the other posts, PLEASE NOTE that exercising with an eating disorder can be potentially dangerous so be sure to check with your child's physician first.

As Dr O'Toole says: "If you have had the wrenching experience of standing next to parents who have lost their child to anorexia nervosa, you will be humbled … and terrified."

And yes I have stood next to parents who have lost their sons and daughters to anorexia.

And yes I was humbled... and terrified.

There is no nice way to put it: eating disorders can and do kill.

But thankfully recovery is possible and my son is an example of this.

Please approach anything like exercising with extreme caution where an eating disorder is involved.

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