Mom Discovers When to Be Tough With Anorexia

Tough Love or Too Much Love?

Wooten said he often sees parents go to extremes when they realize a child suffers from anorexia. One family tried duct-taping food over a child's mouth only to have child services remove her from their care.

At the other extreme, Wooten said parents "walk on eggshells, they don't want to upset anything because if she gets mad she won't eat, if she gets scared she won't eat."

"They often end up sleeping with the kid in the bed at night and what happens is that the kid starts to get really regressed," said Wooten.

In Troscianko's case, her parents didn't go to either extreme at first -- they sent her to a child psychiatrist.

"I was 15 and-a-half when I started to skip breakfast and I started to lie about other meals. Looking back at my diary, there were the (predictable) things about feeling fat and ugly and wanting to lose weight," said Troscianko. "But there were more complex things -- learning how addictive hunger can be."

Anorexia Had False Appeal

Troscianko said she literally got a "high" by feeling dizzy and lightheaded when she was hungry. There was also the feeling of success and an idea that she was stronger compared to others because she could resist eating.

Her parents noticed something was wrong when she returned from a summer trip abroad looking very thin at age 16 and-a-half.

"I think they were just quite confused and quite desperate -- my father was a lot more proactive with trying to force me to eat and trying to scare me with stories of what would happen if I didn't eat," said Troscianko.

At first, she said, friends admired her stamina, or complimented the way she looked. But within a few years Troscianko started to see how anorexia had taken over her life.

When Anorexia Turned Lonely

"I really liked skiing and I didn't have the muscles or the energy to enjoy it," said Troscianko. "Also, social situations -- you avoid situations that involve food, which is quite a lot of them."

Troscianko was so busy with anorexia in college that she barely made any friends. She said her father's warnings about her health had temporary effects, but since she hadn't had heart trouble yet or hadn't been on the brink of death yet the warnings "lost their potency."

Once, in 2003, her father threatened to bring her back from study abroad in Germany unless she started eating. Troscianko said that prompted her into eating more, but she soon fell into her old ways until 2008.

"I wouldn't say that I had been fighting against anorexia for all those years, I was in thrall to it," said Troscianko. "The main struggle was actually before making the decision to get better -- it was trying to make myself want to get better."

Troscianko said she couldn't imagine life being any different than her 10 years as anorexic, and she didn't believe her life would get better if she decided to start eating.

Once Troscianko made the decision to eat, it took just under five months to get back to a healthy weight. She now has a boyfriend, friends and is still flourishing in her academic career.

Therapists who treat anorexia said parents may have more influence over their anorexic children if they catch it in early adolescence.

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