Ask an Expert: Is My Daughter Anorexic?

By Stacey Rosenfeld 02/03/15
Today's question is on how to tell if your daughter is living with anorexia and what you can do about it.

My 17-year-old daughter is showing signs of anorexia. For more than a year she has been obsessed about gaining weight and claiming she is too fat when she actually is pretty thin. Some months ago I caught her trying to throw up and don't have any idea of whether she is still doing it behind my back. We can't afford a shrink and the doctor I insisted she go to wanted to give her stress pills that when I looked them up, are highly addictive. So that didn't work. Any help on how I can help her move through this would be appreciated.  I am a single mother by the way - Roslyn


Stacey Rosenfeld: Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses that have high mortality rates. If you think your daughter is showing signs of an eating disorder, I would recommend her getting evaluated as soon as possible. A professional can help you understand the severity of the symptoms and different treatment options. If she is diagnosed with an eating disorder, the sooner she gets treatment, the better her chance for recovery. You may be able to do some of the treatment yourself, under a model called family-based treatment (FBT) but you'll still need the guidance of an eating-disorder specialist. 

Unfortunately, many medical doctors aren't sufficiently trained in how to address eating disorders.

Treatment can be a pricey endeavor, but there are some lower cost options. Many therapists will offer sliding scale fees. For help on finding those who do, you may want to put in a call to the counseling center at your local college/university. They often have a list of providers who are willing to work for a lower fee. Also, many therapist training programs will offer treatment at a lower cost - look into local graduate programs for psychology, social work, and counseling. Many of these are affiliated with clinics with low-fee treatment. You'll still want to make sure that the therapist has a background in treating eating disorders. 

Some organizations - Project Heal, for example - offer grants for eating disorder treatment for those who need help but cannot afford to pay. The National Eating Disorder Association's Helpline may be a useful resource for you - they offer free help and support at 1-800-931-2237. Also, the organization's treatment finder allows you to search for therapists who offer a sliding scale fee:


Stacey Rosenfeld, PhD, is a clinical psychologist who treats patients with eating disorders, anxiety/depression, substance use issues, and relationship difficulties. A certified group psychotherapist, she has worked at Columbia University Medical Center in NYC and at UCLA in Los Angeles and is a member of three eating disorder associations. The author of the highly- praised Does Every Woman Have an Eating Disorder? Challenging Our Nation's Fixation with Food and Weight, she is often interviewed by media outlets as an expert in the    Full Bio.

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