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Last Updated: Saturday, 22 October 2005, 01:06 GMT 02:06 UK
Lessons for parents of anorexics
Image of a person eating
There is a strong genetic element to eating disorders
Experts have launched a course to teach the family members of young people with eating disorders how to offer care and support.

Over a million people in the UK have an eating disorder, many of them teenagers and some children as young as seven.

Effective treatment early on can mean a successful outcome in 90% of cases, but often it is difficult for loved ones to know what to do for the best.

King's College London has begun a course to give carers necessary skills.

Understanding and support are vital
Professor Janet Treasure, course organiser

The Collaborative Caring Course teaches the necessary skills to understand eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia, and the consequential behavioural changes.

It is hoped it will help family members deal with the impact eating disorders have on their lives as well as to inspire change in the sufferer.

Professor Janet Treasure from The Eating Disorder Research Unit, who is running the free course, said she hoped to dispel common eating disorder myths.

Dispelling myths

These include the misconception that families, in particular mothers, are responsible for their daughter developing an eating disorder; that people with anorexia nervosa choose to have their illness and that people with eating disorders are trying to punish their parents.

"Understanding and support are vital," she said.

I had to learn to take a step back and to let my daughter take control of her own life
A mother who attended the course

"The workshop helps families to learn the communication skills necessary to guide their loved one to having a healthy relationship with food.

"It is vital that parents and other family members are aware of the risk factors and know what signs to look for so that health professionals can act early before the starvation becomes more severe and even harder to treat."


The course also teaches carers the facts surrounding eating disorders.

For example, research shows that genetic factors account for over 50% of the risk and that women who have recovered from eating disorders show abnormal levels of a brain chemical linked to mood and anxiety as well as to appetite and impulse control, even up to a year after recovery.

Recovery is more likely when everyone in the family is involved
A spokesman from the Eating Disorders Association

Abnormal levels of the chemical serotonin suggest that anorexic people remain acutely stressed and anxious even after treatment.

Professor Treasure said: "This research offers valuable insight into eating disorders and the link with other anxiety disorders will help in the development of new drugs and psychological treatments."

The Collaborative Caring Course is free and starts on 21 October at the Capio Nightingale Hospital, Chelsea - a highly specialised eating disorder clinic.

A spokesman from the Eating Disorders Association said: "An eating disorder can have on a family. We welcome this initiative.

"We know that recovery is more likely when everyone in the family is involved in the process and understands the problems that someone with an eating disorder is going through.

"Eating disorders can be very disruptive. Helping families to understand why this happens and, more importantly, giving them tools to deal with it is going to be extremely useful."

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21 Mar 05 |  Scotland
Eating disorder concerns voiced
18 Jan 05 |  Scotland

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