Friday 29 December 2017

When your concerns that your son or daughter is developing an eating disorder aren't being taken seriously

The thing is, we parents are unique. We know our son or daughter better than anyone else in the universe. We have lived with them since the day they were born, and for the nine months beforehand. We have watched them develop and change at every stage of their young lives. So if things start to go wrong and the alarm bells begin to ring inside our heads, our unique sixth sense picks up on it and we begin to worry.

Okay, some of us may not immediately recognise the early signs of an eating disorder like anorexia. Back in summer 2009, my husband and I didn't. At that time we didn't know that boys get eating disorders, just like girls.

But even so, as the weeks went on, we knew there was something seriously wrong with our son. As the weight loss and associated behaviours became worse, we began to Google the symptoms.

'Anorexia' and / or 'eating disorder' came up every time.

The point is that, as parents, by the time we take our son or daughter to the GP, we may be pretty certain of what we are dealing with.

It may also become clear to us that the eating disorder has been germinating inside our child for some time.

This means that, by the time we take our child to see the GP, the eating disorder can be quite advanced.

Never forget that you can't tell if someone has an eating disorder just by looking at them. It's not as if our children don't develop anorexia until they are skeletal thin. The green shoots can sprout months or even years before they get to this stage.

Indeed it is possible to be seriously ill with anorexia and yet 'look relatively OK' to people who haven't known the child from birth.

As parents, no-one is better placed than us to recognise when something is seriously wrong with our child and, like any potentially deadly illness, we expect healthcare teams to take urgent action.

Just as they would if we were visiting the GP with a worrying lump or bleed.


Why are families still being sent away and children still being left to get even more entrenched in an illness than can and does kill?

Why are our concerns, as parents who have known and nurtured our child from birth, still not being taken seriously?

Why are GPs and other professionals still listening to our children but not to us when it's a recognised fact that many young people believe they are perfectly OK when they are, in fact, very sick indeed? Why are we still seen as 'helicopter parents' getting 'over anxious' over nothing?

Why are there still parents who have to virtually chain themselves to railings in order to get something done?

Why are parents still having to fight the medical profession at the same time as fighting for their child's life?

It is time that every medical professional from the GP upwards was thoroughly schooled in eating disorders and their treatment. Evidence-based treatment such as FBT, not older treatment models that have been proven to be less effective for many adolescents with anorexia.

Because until this happens, there are still going to be far too many young people who will slip through the net and end up in hospital on the end of a tube.

Or worse.

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