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Thursday, 14 September 2000

Therapist's Comments on Eating Disorders

Written by  Dr. Chane Deitcher, PhD.

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This is a classic example of a conversation between Mother and daughter who want to connect, yet lack the skills to communicate. The Mother is clearly concerned about her daughter's well being. She is attempting to convey the message that she cares. The daughter, on her part, is expressing her anger, yet at the same time indicating a need for the Mother's approval.

Each is attempting to reach out, yet neither side knows how to connect. The overall experience is one of frustration and distance.
Your Reflections


The Mother begins by focusing on the food. Through the food she is expressing her concern for the daughter's well being. The daughter, Brooke, instead hears her Mother's comments as critical and attacks in return. Brooke feels locked in, backed into a corner. She can never get her Mother's approval - she is either too thin or too fat.

Brooke hints at her need for approval/acceptance by asking "Do you think I look good?" The Mother, feeling parental concern and the need to set limits responds, "You look too thin." Brooke, once again, feels criticized and just 'not good enough'.

By the end of the conversation, the Mother has journeyed from being the "Interrogator" to the "Martyr" to the "Authoritarian", who comes down hard. The daughter retreats and resorts to her role of being negative and rejecting.

As the parent of an adolescent with an Eating Disorder, it is important to recognize that food is a symptom, a smoke screen for other issues. Often the teenager is feeling confused, insecure and out of control. Unable to express these concerns directly, she turns to food.

Attempting to change her eating habits directly usually ends up in a power/control struggle. Instead, try strengthening other aspects in the relationship. Let her know that she means more to you than what she does or does not eat. The road to recovery is often a long and difficult one. Stay focused on small and positive gains. There is hope for the future.


Last modified on Sunday, 30 October 2011 14:34
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Dr. Chane Deitcher, PhD.

Chane Deitcher Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist. She is a Jungian analyst in private practice, and is affiliated with the Department of Child/Adolescent Psychiatry at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem. Dr. Deitcher has lectured and conducted workshops on eating disorders.

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