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Dr. Michael
Dr. Michael, Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 2177
Experience:  Licensed Ph.D. Clinical Health Psychology with 30 years of experience in private practive and as a clinical psychology university professor.
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My daughter in law has been treated for anorexia, She and my son have 5 children, age

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My daughter in law has been treated for anorexia, She and my son have 5 children, ages 16 to 5.
Your program was very sobering for me.
What is the role of a grandfather, father and father in law?
Hello. I believe I can be of help to you with this issue.

I believe your answer represents a question that was prompted by a TV show you saw, perhaps Dr. Phil. While this site may have some advertisement links to that show, none of the experts here are affiliated with it. So, you may want to find the actual email or correspondence page for the particular TV show you are alluding to in this post. Alternatively, I have been regularly involved in a research program in the area of eating disorders for over 20 years, and I train psychotherapists in the area. So if you would like to refocus your question, I'd be happy to answer it.
Customer: replied 6 years ago.


I can only repeat the facts of the situation. My daughter in law with five children has been treated for anorexia this summer.

The children seem to be nervous around their mother, the mother is very hyperactive, and my son is angry at his wife for what she is putting them through.

Any suggestion as to how my wife and I can be supportive of my son, my grandchildren or daughter in law is my question.

You ask for more information without being specific.

Thanks for any insights.

R. Condon

Anorexia nervous represents a condition in which the person has serious problems with self-image or self-identity and significant problems regulating negative emotions. In about 50% of cases, anorexia is accompanied by clinical depression. As you know, it represents a real marital crisis as well---as it is in this case.

The first and most important thing to do is to sit your son down and help him understand that trying to persuade his wife to "just start eating like a normal person" or insisting that his wife "stop dieting" really has nothing to do with the core problems that she is facing.

If he wants his wife to get better, he needs to agree to talk her into seeking help from a clinical psychologist or eating disorders outpatient treatment program. He needs to find out what he can do to support her treatment. He can learn how to assist her with expressing, managing and coping with negative affect (emotions). He can work to help improve their joint listening and communication skills etc.

She will likely not get better without his support. Support means helping her, but not taking responsibility for the things she needs to do to recover, herself.

I'm going to pause here and get your feedback, because what I'm saying here may or may not coincide with the situation as it exists in your son's family.
Customer: replied 6 years ago.

Dr. Michael,

Thank you for your response.

I called my son last night to ask how Kim, our daughter in law, is doing. He said she is good around the house, feeding and transporting the children to various sporting commmitments and doing some seamstress work that brings in extra funds.

However she has lost all of the weight that she gained in the summer inpatient and outpatient treatment program. My son suggested to her that she return to the program and she said that she does not want to go. She claims that some dietary adjustments will solve the weight problem.

He thanked me for the call saying that he is quite concerned and that my input helps him focus.

He plans to take the children hiking in New Hampshire on Sunday. I presume that Kim will stay home alone.

I plan to call him daily going forward. They live 30 miles away.

NPR had a piece on an article in a Monthly Psychiatric Journal reporting that a new emphasis on encouraging anorexic children to eat seemed to be showing good results, long term. I passed it along to my son.

What role should the children have in encouraging or demanding that their mother take appropriate nourishment.?

Thank you for your response.

Bob Condon

Dependent children should not get involved in trying to remedy their mother's psychological/health issues. fundamental involvement here is the spouses' task. Kim's claim that dietary adjustments will solve things are simply words at this point. Her husband needs to insist that she return to the outpatient program immediately because her thinking is still exceedingly "anorexic" and she must face the fact that she is relapsing. Emotionally and psychologically, she has rejected the behavior and eating changes that occurred during the summer. He also needs to emphasize that she is modeling unhealthy eating behavior for the children and is creating the risk that their daughters will develop an eating disorder themselves. He should offer to enter couples therapy with her immediately to "figure out what we can do together to make progress with this". So getting involved in some day program, outpatient will probably be the only effective remedy for her at this point. Since she did well before, it is likely that it would not take long for her to re-enact all of the thinking and behavior changes that helped her, once again. Her husband needs to firmly confront her with the fact that she has gradually returned to all of the old emotional coping and thinking patterns that created her health problems in the first place. If she won't go voluntarily, he should offer to take her to the physician who last saw her and get his/her recommendation about what to do.
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