Eating Disorders

Eating Disorder Article: The Devil and the Angel on My Daughter’s Anorexic Shoulder

This may sound kind of hokey but the title gives a vivid image of what your daughter experiences when she tries to eat. There are a lot of cartoons, movies and television commercials that depict this epic struggle, but they don’t even come close to describing the raging conflict going on in your child’s mind about food.

Why is it so important for you to understand this struggle? Because it will help you fathom the life and death situation your child is in. There is a part of her that wants to eat (angel’s voice). In the midst of an eating disorder, however, the part of her that is too afraid to eat (devil’s voice) is stronger and louder.

Harriet Brown in her book Brave Girl Eating describes this very well. She even observes during some re-feeding crisis points her daughter takes on a “demon” like state. She is not possessed or under the control of something demonic. The eating disorder is so strong it spits out rage, despair and self-loathing you never could have imagined coming from your child.

This experience is not uncommon actually. I have heard multiple times that as parents are re-feeding their child they see behaviors that shock and frighten them. Parents remove siblings from the dining room so they don’t see this occur. Sometimes they will remove their daughter because she is aggressive, kicking, biting, hitting, and screaming.

It is terrifying for a parent to see their child in this state of mind. Not every family goes through this battle to such an extreme; but some do. This is one of the ways you know that this eating disorder is not your child. It is objective evidence that you must separate ED from her because she would never do this. It’s like she has been taken over by an alien or something. The eating disorder is not your child.

What I want you to understand is even if your child doesn’t show the battle to this extreme, she is experiencing it. Her mind goes back and forth all day long and she doesn’t know whom to listen to. The “angel” is soothing and telling her she can eat, she will be okay. The “devil” is condemning her, raging at her not to give in and break the rules he has set forth.

This epic battle will continue until she eats and gains enough weight so her state of mind can reset to what it was; as Harriet Brown calls it, “BA or Before Anorexia.” Know that as you re-feed your child you are fighting against something very strong. You must know the eating disorder’s tactics and you must be stronger than it to save her.

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