Eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia are complex illnesses and you may feel that you need to know why your child or loved one is ill.

It is logical to believe that, if only you knew what caused it, you could do something to resolve it. This can lead to much soul searching and looking back over the past. There are many things that may have triggered the illness and often a cause is not found.

The search for a cause often considers factors such as:-

  • Peer pressure
  • Bullying
  • Not fitting in at school
  • Social media / other media influences
  • Family stresses and pressures - illness / separation / financial / moving home or school

Parents and carers may experience some of the following feelings:

  • Guilt / self blame - what did we do wrong? 
  • Anger / frustration – why has this happened to us, why now? Why does nothing seem to work?
  • Conflicts and arguments within the family
  • Isolation / loneliness
  • Fear of perceived stigma
  • Anxiety about impact on family 
  • Despair / helplessness 
  • Depression / anxiety - an eating disorder in the family can impact on the mental health of other family members
  • Disbelief / Denial – it’s not happening / it will resolve itself
  • A desire to get away from it all

Try not to feel guilty or blame yourself. Instead, find out as much as you can about the illness and how you can support your child or loved one. 

Parent quote: "Some days will be tough. At times your child may feel like a stranger. Some people will be really understanding, others will not understand. One day you will find things have improved."

Talking to other parents in the same situation can be very helpful - you may like to take a look at the page for EAS-ED Support Group.

Some book and website recommendations are given below, and repeated with more suggestions and web-links in the 'Further Reading' section.

Books on Eating Disorders:
     • Skills Based Learning for Caring for a Loved One with an Eating Disorder – The New Maudsley Method (Janet Treasure, Grainne Smith & Anna Crane ISBN 978-0-415-43158-3)
     • Anorexia and Bulimia in the Family (Grainne Smith ISBN 0-470-86161-4)
     • Help your Teenager Beat an Eating Disorder (James Lock, Daniel Le Grange ISBN 987-1-57230-908-1)

General Information websites: (e.g. B-eat, Young Minds, MIND)