My child has an eating disorder. How can I get help?

I think my child has an eating disorder – what should I do?

The first step is to discuss your concerns with your daughter or son. They will be experiencing many difficult emotions and may deny there is a problem, become angry with you, or withdraw. You may need to raise the subject several times before your child takes on board your concerns. Each time, emphasise that you want to offer help and support.

If you have concerns, it is very important that you raise them, however difficult that may be. Eating disorders rarely get better without treatment and if left without intervention, can become increasingly resistant to treatment.

Once your child agrees to discuss their problems with a professional, your GP is the best person to see together. Your GP can refer you to a range of specialists with extensive experience of treating eating disorders. These specialists include psychiatrists, psychologists, counsellors, dieticians and nutritionists.

Will my child have to go into hospital?

Once your child is diagnosed as having an eating disorder, he or she will be given a treatment programme to address his or her individual needs.

This may involve sessions with a psychiatrist, psychologist or counsellor to understand the cause of the problem and how the eating disorder is best treated. Your child will only be admitted to the hospital if this is in their best interests.

What else can I do to help my child?

You have taken the most important first step and will have the support of a range of specialist health professionals.

The process of treatment can often take up to two years and raise some difficult issues for the whole family. You may be asked to take part in family therapy. This is not because you have done anything wrong as a parent. Family therapy is important because family relationships shape the way young people experience the world and need to be explored as they seek to overcome their eating disorder.

As your child progresses through his or her treatment, you will be given advice on how to manage mealtimes.

Mealtimes can be the most stressful experiences for the child with an eating disorder, their parents and siblings. Every child and family are different and professionals will help you to find ways of making mealtimes as calm and positive as possible.

Try not to police your child’s eating or engage in battles over food consumption. Your child’s health professionals will be responsible for their overall nutrition and physical well being.

There are many good support groups for both people with eating disorders and their families. Dealing with an eating disorder is an extremely stressful experience for the whole family and you are likely to need support, as well as supporting your child.

Outpatient clinic

We have an outpatient clinic for adults as well as young people, treating eating disorders including bulimia and binge eating disorder.

Our outpatients’ clinic remains open, including to new requests for advice and support. We are following the Department of Health and Public Health England Coronavirus guidelines and all our consultations are being conducted by video conference or telephone. You are welcome to contact us to discuss your needs. Please be assured, we continue to support and offer outpatient programmes via digital and telephone communications.

Find out more about our outpatient clinic

Eating disorders help: our services in London and York

Newbridge House is part of the Schoen Clinic group, 26 high quality hospitals and services across Germany and the UK. Schoen Clinic Chelsea provides private outpatient and day treatment for adults, adolescents and children with eating disorders, anxiety and depression. You can self-refer to our service in Chelsea. Additionally, Schoen Clinic York is an adult inpatient service for adults with eating disorders and complex personality disorders.