If you don't know me, I can understand that without that background my posts may seem "needlessly angry" or that I am on a "high horse."
I have blogged on this topic before:
Yes, some parents suck
"my personal experiences diminished and trivialized"
...and many other times to say very clearly and without reservation that parents very, very, very (save a few of these for later because if you read my blog you'll need them) much affect the mental health of our children. If we neglect or abuse our children we cause enormous and often irreparable harm. Sometimes we do things that are not overtly damaging but do cause harm anyway -- in ways we may never know.
But a person with an eating disorder isn't JUST an eating disorder, and an eating disorder isn't the sum total of that person's mental health. I'm not arguing that parents don't cause harm or make it more likely that an eating disorder be triggered or that we don't sometimes exacerbate and perpetuate the illness once in place. ALL I'm saying is that an eating disorder is not a sign that the patient has been neglected, abused, mistreated, bullied, teased, pressured, or influenced. All an eating disorder diagnosis tells us is just that. No matter how serious the symptoms, how severe the behaviors and the thoughts, this tells you nothing about the family or the life experience of the patient.
This is important because unless we separate the issues we risk harming the patient more:
If there is NO environmental problem then we cannot afford to put energy into that angle - the patient needs a confident, calm, loving family and treatment team even in the best of circumstances to save this person's life and future. This is most families.
If there ARE problems in the patient's history or present then those must be addressed FOR THEIR OWN SAKE and not based on the eating disorder. By linking the two we actually risk making the patient use the eating disorder behaviors as a distress signal -- and a default. An eating disorder only makes one's overall mental health worse.
Believe it or not, I'm not DOWNPLAYING parenting, I'm EMPHASIZING it. We parents need to step up and do some of the hardest, scariest, most personally challenging parenting we've ever had to do - and most parents never need to do - if our child has an eating disorder.
Let's not give abuse or poor parenting a pass, and lets stop putting all parents under that suspicion.