Nobody’s Fault – Kids and Anorexia

Almost always, no one specific person is to blame when a child suffers anorexia, and neither are the parents as a couple or as a team. Parenting often has nothing to do with it. The implication that up-bringing is most often the cause of (or that at least it acts as a catalyst for) anorexia in kids has been the cause of additional suffering for parents with anorexic children for years. However, they suffer unduly. The reality is that (in most cases) this is an incredibly unfortunate misunderstanding. The most predominant component of the development of anorexia in families (and especially in children) is genetic. This article will provide some examples of different cases throughout the past several years that resulted from this type of genetic disposition and the battle against the severe condition we call anorexia.

Now, it is true that loss of appetite is symptomatic of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, and other conditions. Loss of appetite, nonetheless, can present with no outside cause, but from an underlying genetic pre-existing condition. If there is a history of anorexia in your family, you will not absolutely, without a doubt, develop anorexia as well. The most horrible part for parents with anorexic children was the combination of guilt, as well as watching their child suffer. Now at least the parents can rest easy that the guilt is not theirs, that anorexia is not the result of bad parenting and making the wrong choices. There is no single definitive cause for anorexia, one can only evaluate and speculate. Nonetheless, it is not that much easier to suffer through the experience. After all, the child is still battling anorexia, and the stakes are high.

When a child becomes ill it is horrid enough, you can be sure (if you have never had the experience) that the parent’s worst nightmare would be to go through it all over again. A child with a life-threatening illness is one of the most devastating things to witness, especially a son or daughter. So when the parents of a girl named Erin from Maryland experienced her battle with anorexia they were desperately saddened by the surprise – she had just become healthy again. They discovered that after almost miraculously surviving leukemia at the age of 10, had to be re-admitted to the hospital for anorexia. The girl told her mother that she was hearing voices (clearly a neurological problem) that she heard angry voices. These voices warned her not to eat anything.

Nonetheless, this is an example with a happy ending. Her success did not end with the fight she won over the life-threatening leukemia she suffered early in her life. The latest medical notes on this girl indicate that she has successfully adjusted her eating habits and is maintaining a healthy weight and lifestyle. It is possible that she is under psychological treatment, and taking medications as well to help her overcome her neurological symptoms. But it is not indicated that she had to undergo any kind of surgery, her disease is controlled by taking action to combat and overcome her condition. One might say the little girl won the lottery twice. However, (in accordance with a plethora of medical studies) I believe that her strength of character and her will to live played important roles in her return to health. These are two of the variables undeniably essential to an anorexic’s successful recovery.

Many high school girls essentially believe in the expression that “there is no such thing as being too rich or too thin.” Therefore, unaware of the significant dangers, they will destroy their bodies and even their brains, perhaps permanently, in order to loose weight. However, people with anorexia nervosa are virtually always convinced that they are too fat or (for whatever reason) can not eat. Even when the goal is to improve his or her appearance, a high school student who does not eat will look gaunt, ill, skeletal, and they will be losing their cognitive function.

This means that in addition to all of the changes a teenager’s body (or for that matter, a child’s body goes through as it grows, they will suffer the effects of their body responding to malnutrition. This can get in the way of proper function, or, normal growth and (much of the time) will have devastating effects. In junior high and high school aged students, this also makes anorexia nervosa very difficult to identify. Most parents will deny their children’s troubles until the very last minute. This is not due to negligence, but to the biological intuition to believe (or, rather, to convince yourself) that your child (and / or children) are ok.

Most parents with anorexic teens just see the trauma of adolescence, the bad experience virtually everyone has to go through in life – they can’t imagine that the problem is deeper than that. This is because, as any parent would, they desperately do not want their child to be suffering more than that. Sometimes, the realization that the problem is there is quite a rude, and often quite a late, awakening to a reality they, nor their child are prepared to face.

The fact of the matter is that denial is an automatic human response to potentially dangerous circumstances, especially life-threatening and definitively terminal illnesses. If someone is afraid of a serious problem, they can be equally afraid to confirm it. But anyone with this illness, or who recognizes this illness in someone else, should know that the longer you deny that you have anorexia – the more harmful it will be. The longer you suffer from this illness the more it destroys your ability to grow, develop, or function without the proper nourishment your body requires.

There are ways to prevent your self from responding to biological impulses of an underlying condition, whether in your family or in your past, but not every story has a happy ending. There are many examples of dangerous and unpreventable cases, especially when the condition increases rapidly and the individual can not compromise or adjust to eating right. This is the most important part of this article: anorexia is not just a popular Hollywood fad that happens to be dangerous. People MUST realize this truth.

I want to brace you for the story of a ten year old girl named Katherine, who died quickly as a result of this disease. Katherine had always been a slender girl. Therefore, it was quite noticeable when she began to decline. Her mother thought, initially, that she was probably just fighting a virus or cold. But it was soon as obvious as it could possibly be – she became skeletal in appearance, her eyes looked hollow because the bones in her face were so apparent. She now had virtually 0% body fat. Her parents were terrified, they tried everything to get their daughter to eat when her weight slipped from 48 lbs to 45 lbs . . . a serious difference considering her weight. Little Katherine continued to decline and put her self on an extreme starvation diet.

There are a multitude of experts to consult and things to try which can potentially bring a child out of this dangerous illness and teach them to eat properly and avoid impulses to starve him or her self. Katherine’s parents exhausted every possibility. The diet was brutal for her frail body, already tortured by this illness. There was no guidance counselor, psychologist, private therapist, pediatrician, eating program, or meal program could convince her to eat. Even bribery was pushed on her. No promise would get her to change her mind. In all likelihood, the poor girl was probably irreversibly mentally impaired. Katherine’s young brain just would not hear any of the voices trying to tell her how wrong what it was to starve herself. Yet Katherine heard nothing but the impulses that told her (for whatever reason) that she should not, could not, would not ignore. They likely manifested themselves in real voices, audible only to this ten year old girl, which could not be quieted. Hearing voices is a common symptom of psychosis related to lack of certain nutrients. Katherine was depriving herself of all nutrients as her body struggled to grow like a normal ten year old and her immune defenses were weak. She simply shut down when mealtimes came or anyone tried to get her to eat. She became so weak that she could barely move. She was rushed to the emergency room and admitted to the hospital, but once she was released she deprived herself of food in exactly the same manner as she had done before. There was still nothing her parents could do.

There are expensive and extremely intense programs for girls such as Katherine in order to save their lives. Constant clinical treatment is required. Unfortunately, there are extremely limited numbers of residential facilities for treating such conditions across the country and around the world. Anorexia is a horror. Many, many children like Katherine pass away while those who care for them stand around their little death beds: desperate and helpless. ‘I never realized someone could get anorexia so young’ many parents have said – traumatized, believing that they should have noticed sooner or put an end to it. In reality, parents often do not have the ability to stop the suffering of an anorexic child – the disease is too powerful.

However, some child anorexics are luckier. These are children whose families have been able to afford and send away their children to the kinds of facilities mentioned. Nonetheless, because of the lack of numbers of these programs there are waiting lists that can be deadly – even for people who can afford treatment for their children. There are many families who have suffered the death of a child by anorexia whose lives may not have been so traumatically changed if they had only had better medical insurance at the time.

Anorexia comes from a Greek word, essentially meaning “the loss of appetite” but it is a virtually always mental condition, convincing the sufferer that eating is wrong, or rationalizes, for example: five bites of cereal the equivalent of an entire meal. The lack of nutrition in children is even more dangerous than when adults develop anorexia and starve themselves. But obviously, there is no good time to develop anorexia nervosa. This condition is now more and more commonly seen in children, who are definitely worse off than adult sufferers and who are as young as eight or nine years old. This is a frightening and often progressive psychological condition that takes a lot of effort to control and is (unfortunately) sometimes impossible to pull a child away from. The power of the mind can be a dangerous enemy.