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When Your Daughter Struggles with Anorexia Nervosa

No mother wants her daughter or a loved one to struggle with an eating disorder. The fact is many parents have seen what an eating disorder can do to a loved one. Let’s take a look at what one mother learned about her daughter struggling with anorexia nervosa.

According to an article at, “Does Your Daughter Have an Eating Disorder?”

sad girl“Your daughter has anorexia nervosa.”

My daughter Elena was seventeen years old when her psychiatrist told me this. At the time, I thought I understood her diagnosis. The articles I’d read linked anorexia nervosa to our society’s glorification of the slender figure, so I thought my daughter was trying to diet – trying to get that “supermodel” look.
I was wrong. I had no idea what my daughter was going through. It’s very hard for a mentally healthy person to understand the anorexic mindset.

Here are some of the things I wish I’d known then about my daughter’s disorder.

Elena’s anorexia nervosa was triggered by a traumatic event. There is a strong link between trauma and anorexia nervosa. One study reported that 50% of the anorexic and bulimic patients studied had experienced sexual abuse.

When Elena was thirteen years old, a stranger raped her at a party. Elena was a proud girl. She wanted people to see her as a winner, not a victim, so she hid the rape and didn’t tell anyone. But her entire personality changed: she went from bubbly and happy to grim and bitter. When we pressed her, she insisted nothing was wrong.

My daughter’s eating disorder was all about control. Shocked and humiliated by the rape, Elena felt herself torn apart by powerful negative emotions. Like many rape victims, Elena didn’t want to accept the idea that this was a random event and out of her control. Random events can reoccur at any time – a horrifying thought to a rape victim. So Elena’s subconscious mind concluded that the rape was her fault: she had been stupid and careless. But this conclusion turned those powerful negative emotions against her.

Tormented by shame, fury, and self-hatred, Elena began to restrict her intake as a way to discipline and punish herself. Rationing out food to herself and withstanding hunger pangs made her feel emotionally stable again. The starvation acted like a sedative on her overwrought nerves, fuzzing out the world and calming her anger and anxiety.

Elena’s anorexia nervosa wasn’t about looking like a model. Soon after the rape, when Elena first started restricting, she was afraid people would notice how distraught and ill she was. Instead, classmates began to compliment her and begged her to help them diet. This was a pleasant side effect but not a goal. Elena saw her own appearance as a kind of disguise she put on to fool the world. In fact, when she was at her worst, she wouldn’t even look in a mirror. Her self-hatred and body dysmorphia became so severe that her reflection looked like a frightening stranger to her.” To read the entire article click here.

ABC Nutrition Services specialize in eating disorders, such as binge eating, overeating, and much more. To schedule an appointment contact ABC Nutrition Services at 775-329-0505 or visit

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