Families ‘not to blame for children’s anorexia’

FAMILIES have been blamed for far too long for causing the eating disorder, anorexia nervosa, in their children, a mental health expert has claimed.

Dr James Lock, a US psychiatrist specialising in adolescence, said there was no evidence to support the view parents were to blame. But, he pointed out, it was because parents were held responsible that they were being totally excluded from being involved in caring for their afflicted offspring.

Instead of being the culprits, parents were the key to their children’s recovery, Dr Lock told a conference on adolescent mental health in the Mater Hospital in Dublin.

“Current treatment research suggests that rather than being excluded from treatment, parents are perhaps the best resource to combat this illness by re-feeding their children at home,” said Dr Lock.

By not blaming the parents or seeing them as the cause, parents were relieved of the guilt that often interferes with families’ ability to take definitive action to help their child, he said. Dr Lock, from Stanford’s University School of Medicine in California, urged parents and medical professionals to become allies in the struggle to combat anorexia nervosa.

Meanwhile, Dr Bernadka Dubicka, a child consultant psychiatrist, said there was no extra benefit in adding behavioural therapy to antidepressants and routine treatment. The study into adolescent depression found children did just as well with routine care. “It is important for families to seek help sooner rather than later if they are concerned, as effective treatments are available, as well as support for the family,” said Dr Dubicka.


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