Caring for the carer

There is no doubt that caring for an anorexic child is an incredibly stressful experience. Caring for any sick child is stressful, but in most cases the sick child wants to get better and will happily go along with the appropriate treatment programme. On the other hand anorexia is a mental illness and it is one where diagnosis is difficult and denial is a common feature. The child might refuse to accept there is anything wrong. Even if he does accept he is ill he may have no desire to get better. In fact the idea of putting on weight and eating normal meals probably petrifies him and faced with this prospect he can be extremely difficult and irrational. The rest of the family is all affected in some way. The stress of dealing with this scenario can be compared to:

• looking after a child with cancer: you have no idea how long treatment will take or whether your child will make a full recovery

• looking after a family member with schizophrenia, whose behaviour is totally unpredictable and can be violent

• looking after a family member with Alzheimer's, whose behaviour is totally unpredictable and can be harmful to the very confused patient.

It is important that the carer(s) finds ways of coping with this stress, because if the carer(s) breaks under the strain the son is almost certain to succumb to the anorexia and the anorexia is likely to take control of the whole family. Everyone reacts to stress differently and will have his or her own ways of dealing with that stress. In this chapter, I mention some of the things that we found useful including:

• the benefits of support groups and helplines

• using your GP health visitor or a counsellor

• the importance of close friends/family

• the importance of the carer(s) keeping some time to relax or to pursue a hobby away from the anorexic boy.

Breaking Bulimia

Breaking Bulimia

We have all been there: turning to the refrigerator if feeling lonely or bored or indulging in seconds or thirds if strained. But if you suffer from bulimia, the from time to time urge to overeat is more like an obsession.

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