What is an eating disorder and how does it affect family relationships?

When it comes to anorexia nervosa, many people immediately come to the conclusion that this is a disease of girls who have a problem with food. Of course, it is also about food, but limiting this disease to it is a big mistake. Forty-eight-year-old Lenka, whose daughter, now nineteen, suffers from this and other mental problems, has known for many years. During her daughter Adela’s first hospitalization, Lenka came across a method of treating this illness that shocked her somewhat.

I realize that these girls are malnourished and need to find themselves physically. But on the other hand, tying it only and exclusively to food is, in my opinion, a big mistake. I don’t think access to food should be conditional. Feeding children with this disorder in the hospital dumplings with gravy and then forcing them to eat a donut so they wouldn’t be punished and could call their parents home… I naively thought they would teach them not to be afraid of food, Lenka describes me and adds that hospitalization ends when girls reach a certain weight. In Adela’s case, it was 46 kilograms. “And what will such a child do first when he returns home?” He finds himself completely panicked because he has become so “fat”. He immediately rushes back to where he was and as a parent you have no chance of stopping him. You can’t grab a baby by the neck and stuff food like goose cones.” Lenka approaches.

During the first hospitalization in child psychiatry with a diagnosis of anorexia nervosa, Adela, then twelve years old, first underwent an examination in anthropology, where the then doctor determined the level of her physical development. Lenka remembers this doctor telling her: “Do you know what my dream would be? I inherited a lot of money, thanks to which I was able to build a facility for girls with eating disorders, where it would be all in one. There would be a doctor, a psychologist, a psychiatrist. The girls could stay there for a long time, but they could also go there as a hospital. They would receive comprehensive care there. » At that time, Lenka was surprised that there was not such a thing in the Czech Republic yet.

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What further surprises Lenka is that in a total of four child psychiatric hospitalizations, which her daughter completed during her eight-year battle with the disease, Adela spoke only once. with the psychologist. “I understand that there is a lack of money in health care. But here it shows exactly the same as in preventive medical examinations – if prevention is not reimbursed, then the brutal consequences are reimbursed . In the hospital, the girls “fatten up”, send them home, and they come back in a few months. It’s a carousel with no way out”, commented Lenka.

In their case, the situation is further complicated by the fact that Adela not only struggles with an eating disorder, when the period of anorexia nervosa alternates with bulimia, but suffers from a number of other mental health issues. It is very difficult to disentangle a ball from what preceded it. “It all depends a lot on the child and the possibilities of the family. Thank God we had the opportunity and were able to pay for our daughter’s therapy with a psychologist. I’m close to the idea of ​​how people who don’t don’t have the money to do that. It’s also difficult for families who don’t live in big cities, where there is at least a partial base to solve similar problems.” Lenka adds.

“There were only a few moments where my husband and I barked at each other and I blamed him for being too strict on Adele. But we view the sight of the disease and the whole situation the same way, only with the fact that my husband is capable of certain measures, which I know internally correct, but being alone, I am not able to take them “ says and continues:In addition, we have a daughter, Karolína, six years her junior, whom we have never forgotten and who is as devoted to her as Adele. But it is clear that we have spent and still spend a lot of time dealing either directly with Adela or dealing with Adela. It is a fact that Karolína perceives it and shows it to us, for example by not telling us too much about her problems, that we already have enough of them anyway. And it bothers me. »

What They Don’t Say: Eating Disorders According to statistics, in 2020 more than five thousand clients in the Czech Republic were treated for eating disorders. What does this disease look like, who can it affect and how does the treatment actually take place? Facilitator and therapist Honza Vojtko spoke about this in the ongoing work of the program What is Silent About with a psychiatrist and the head doctor of the Center for Eating Disorders prof. MUDr. Hana Papežová, CSc., As Mgr. Natália Tokárová from the center of Anabell.

Lenka further notes that Adela does not try such games on her father as on her. “He knows I’m easy to manipulate, but that doesn’t apply to him. But there were times when he went and said he couldn’t do it anymore. And sometimes I had the feeling like I really didn’t want to talk anymore, that I didn’t want to solve anything anymore, that I didn’t want to hear a word and that I was pretending not to. It’s like feeling like in a net in which a spider wraps her in a cocoon and sucks her. You keep telling yourself: she is not guilty, she is sick. It is very important to find a boundary where the behavior is a manifestation of the illness and when it comes to thoughtful handling, it’s extremely difficult. And I may not know that to this day.”

What if Lenka, with her experience of her daughter’s illness over the years, did something different today? “I should be different to be able to do something different. I don’t need to hear where my weaknesses are and what I’m strong in. I would rather hear how to treat Adele, how to look for the boundary I was talking about, but no one haven’t told me yet. Maybe it doesn’t work at all”, he thinks out loud. What would she advise parents in a similar situation? “Be patient and keep trying, because this is not a disease that will resolve itself in a short time. And above all, it must ‘click’ in the child himself or a young adult. We are a little helpless in there as parents.” concludes Lenka.

Important contacts

PPP Diagnosis and Treatment Center – establishes a club for patients with eating disorders and an open group for follow-up, as well as a club for parents and relatives of PPP patients.

Anabell Center – offers crisis telephone support and counseling on the Internet, as well as the possibility of meeting a social worker who further refers the client, for example to a nutrition therapist, a psychotherapist or a psychiatrist. The client can also share the situation with a peer consultant who has had a personal experience with an eating disorder.

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My psychology 04/22. Author: Lucia Robinson

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