Anorexic Daughter Eats Only One Color of Food

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Reader’s Question

I am a mother of a 15-year-old teenager who has been suffering from anorexia for two years. She also has obsessions about eating the same type of food (e.g., she eats only food which is white in colour — such as bread pasta, fresh cream, and rice, and avoids food which is dark in color). She also always eats at the time everyday (e.g., at 6:30 sharp). If the food is ready 2 minutes before, she will wait for those two minutes before eating. She is obsessed with the time it is.

I’ve taken my daughter to many doctors, consultants, psychiatrists, and now she is even visiting a psychologist. But no one has given her the skills to overcome her obsessions of time and colors in food.

I know the problems have something to do with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), but how can I help her with this problem she has everyday?

Psychologist’s Reply

Anorexia Nervosa is a multi-dimensional syndrome. It’s one of the hardest eating disorders to treat because so many other problems can co-occur with it. Besides that, treatment providers have to deal artfully with the inherent “bind” that characterizes the person afflicted with the illness — namely, the strong need for control.

It’s not uncommon for Anorexia sufferers to suffer some depression and anxiety as well as problems related to various obsessions and compulsions. For these and other reasons, most often treatment is also multi-dimensional, and includes use of medications as well as various forms of specialized therapy.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy has demonstrated some effectiveness in helping individuals gain more control over their obsessive and compulsive tendencies. Therapists who use these methods help their clients identify and change thinking patterns that help perpetuate the vicious cycle of symptoms.

It’s also common for family members of those afflicted with Anorexia to experience life disruption and emotional upheaval as a result of the disease. For that reason, it’s often helpful for parents, friends, siblings, etc. to access their own support resources.

My best suggestion: the best things you can do for both yourself and your daughter are to support and reinforce her efforts to utilize the tools she might be given in therapy and to maintain your own emotional well-being by accessing support resources yourself.

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