June 4, 2012

Red flags when choosing treatment for your child's eating disorder

There is no magic formula or clear rules for choosing professionals who will treat your loved one, I'm afraid. But there are some red flags. The following are signs that you may need to keep looking, or have a frank talk:

  1. "Don't be the food police." 
  2. "Don't make too big a deal out of it: you'll make it worse."
  3. "She's not in danger yet."
  4. "Something has upset him, and we have to figure out what that is."
  5. "She has to choose to get well."
  6. "We'll work on the underlying issues and not worry about the eating piece right now."
  7. "I'm not worried."
  8. "I've worked with a few eating disorder patients."
  9. "He just needs to understand how dangerous an eating disorder is."
  10. "These problems are just about control."
  11. "His weight is low but not dangerous."
  12. "I don't believe in labels: the treatment I offer just seems to help patients."
  13. "What is evidence-based?"
  14. "This is the worst case I've ever seen."
  15. "I don't believe in manuals."
  16. "Yes, I offer Family-Based Maudsley. But that's only for little kids."
  17. "I've never seen a boy with an eating disorder before."
  18. "I wish I could lose a few pounds."
  19. "Don't you see how you are worrying your parents?"
  20. "Mom, dad, wait outside."
  21. "These are lifelong conditions that people just have to learn to live with."
  22. "I see most of my patients for many years."
  23. "My patients like me."
There are certainly effective eating disorder specialists who have said some of the above, but if you do have choices in choosing providers and you see red flags remember that this decision could be one of the most important of your life. Most care available is based on guesswork and good intentions but not the best informed methods or skill.

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