My daughter is just 10 years old. She has been suffering from illness, including severe weight loss for almost 2 years now. She has seen many doctors and has had many tests run. Conventional doctors tell me there is nothing wrong with her and that it is behavioral. Behavioral Health will not call it anorexia--they say she is too young for that.
Where can I get help for my family? She is still severely underweight and I am about ready to give up. Does she need a diagnosis of anorexia before a doctor who practices the Maudsley method will treat her? Please advise me as to where to start. Is she too young to be suffering an eating disorder? My husband and I are desperate to help her. Thank you for any advice you can offer.
Peter Doyle, PhD responds:
The doctors you have seen may have run a number of tests (e.g., blood samples) to look at biological markers of illness. However, we know that patients with eating disorders may have lab values within normal ranges and still be quite ill psychologically. Although we typically think of eating disorders as occurring in older children and adolescents, they can certainly manifest themselves in younger children and there is no specific age criterion for a diagnosis of anorexia nervosa. Likewise, there is no magic age before which the Maudsley method cannot be used, nor does one need to carry a specific diagnosis of anorexia nervosa before they can be helped using this method. Practitioners have effectively used the Maudsley method (family-based treatment) on children as young as 7 or 8 years old and research has shown that the method is also effective for those suffering from sub-clinical anorexia nervosa (Le Grange & Loeb, 2007). There are a number of valuable resources to help you navigate finding effective treatment, beginning with this website. If you would like to pursue treatment with a mental health professional who is trained in the Maudsley method, click here. Other good resources include Help Your Teenager Beat an Eating Disorder by Lock and LeGrange (2005). Although your daughter is not yet a teenager, the guidance offered in this book would be helpful and translate easily into how to help a 10 year-old.
Le Grange, D. & Loeb, K. (2007). Early identification and treatment of eating disorders: prodrome to syndrome. Early Intervention in Psychiatry, 1, 27-39.