Eating Disorders Community

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online conference transcript

hp-Weltzin.jpgDr. Ted Weltzinjoined us to discuss what you, as a parent, can do for your eating disordered child. Whether it be anorexia or bulimia (binging and purging) that your child suffers from, there are many different treatment options for eating disorders available. These include inpatient, outpatient, and residential. Dr. Weltzin explored the traits and costs of each of these options.


We also talked about:

  • how to ask your child if she/he is having an eating problem.
  • what to do if your child has an eating problem but insists that they don't.
  • how parents can better cope with their own concerns, frustration and even anger in dealing with their eating disordered child.
  • the relationship between obsessive compulsive disorder and eating disorders.
  • and why, no matter how much money you spend on outpatient treatment for eating disorders, inpatient eating disorders treatment, or weekly therapy, your child may not be ready to get better.

David Roberts is the moderator.

The people in blue are audience members.


David: Good Evening. I'm David Roberts. I'm the moderator for tonight's conference. I want to welcome everyone to Our topic tonight is "Help For Parents Of Children With Eating Disorders."

Our guest is Dr. Ted Weltzin, Medical Director of The Eating Disorder Center at Rogers Memorial Hospital. Dr. Weltzin is a licensed psychiatrist. Before coming to Rogers Memorial Hospital, he was an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin Medical School. Prior to that, Dr. Weltzin was the medical director of the Center for Overcoming Problem Eating, an inpatient program at the University of Pittsburgh.

Parents of children with eating disorders have a tough road ahead. Read about treatment options for eating disorders, the costs, and how to cope.Good evening Dr. Weltzin, and welcome to Many parents with eating disordered children seem to go through a cycle. First denial, then being scared. Later, if there isn't a relatively quick recovery, some move onto frustration, anger, resentment, and even resignation that things will never get better. These are some of the issues I want to address tonight. For parents who are just getting into the process, what should a parent do when they first think their daughter or son has an eating disorder?

Dr. Weltzin: The first thing to do is to ask him or her if they are having an eating problem. As you mentioned, they may not admit to the eating problems but this begins to open a dialogue about a potential problem. Approaching them in a caring and non-confrontational manner is the best approach unless their disordered eating behavior is very out of control.

David: Let's say the child says that nothing is wrong, but you can tell that something is wrong. What should a parent do at that point? Should the parent press further? Be confrontational?

Dr. Weltzin: Probably the next thing to do is to bring them into see their pediatrician or medical doctor. A lot of times they will admit to their doctor that they have a problem. Also, this is a good start at determining if there are any serious medical problems, which are common in eating disorders.

Persistence is the key in terms of this phase of a problem: the denial phase. Trying to avoid arguments and anger can help the child to talk about the problem. If this does not work, then bringing them to an eating disorder specialist can help to determine how problematic their eating is.

David: There are some parents, I'm sure, who are wondering how long you should try and talk to your child before actually "forcing" them in to be evaluated by a doctor?

Dr. Weltzin: This depends on how serious the eating problem appears. If there are clear medical problems, such as passing out, dizziness, or other medical problems, then it should happen quickly. The same goes for if they are becoming increasingly depressed, isolated, or having problems in school or work. These are also signs that the eating disorder has probably gone on for a while. An interesting fact: the average length of time from the onset of bulimia to seeking help is about 5 years.

David: And that's a good point, Dr. Weltzin. When is an eating problem serious? There are certainly some kids who start cutting down on meals, or throw up once or twice (that the parents know about). At that point, some parents may just say "my child is going through a phase."

Dr. Weltzin: It is true that some children do go through periods of infrequent vomiting to lose weight. However, this often predicts later worsening of symptoms, particularly with a stressful event such as a relationship problem, school stress, moving, etc.

David: So, you've determined that your child has an eating problem. You've tried to talk to your child about it, but that's not working. What about when your child is insistent that nothing is wrong, that they don't have an eating disorder? Then what do you do?

Dr. Weltzin: Get information from the school or other sources that might be available. Sometimes a school counselor, clergy, or friend will be willing to approach them about the problem. If this does not work then they should be taken to see a specialist. Eating disorder specialists see many patients like this and an important part of eating disorders treatment is working on denial and building a relationship in which the patient feels comfortable with talking about the problem.