The Impact of Eating Disorders on Children and Parents


The Sydney Morning Herald on April 23rd published an interesting article about the impact of eating disorders on parents of affected children.

Entitled ‘I felt like I went from parent to prison officer’: The impact of eating disorders, the article illustrates how parents looking after children with eating disorders frequently experience adverse emotional health outcomes due to a lack of mental health support and constant caregiving duties.

Researchers from Flinders University found that parents, particularly mothers, are forced to take an average of seventy days off work to care for their children and spend over twenty-one hours a week on direct care.

One parent in the study said she felt like a “prison officer” due to the constant monitoring of her daughter’s food intake.

Unhappy Teenage Girl Sitting In Bathroom Looking At Scales And Tape Measure

The impact of eating disorders on children and parents

The article explores the various adverse outcomes of parents of children with eating disorders, reporting the following:

  • Parents of children with eating disorders had to take an average of 70.6 days off from work to care for their children throughout their illness. 
  • Approximately 13.9 per cent of parents had to stop work or lost their job due to their child’s illness.
  • Families of adolescents with eating disorders see an average of 3.55 psychologists before finding a suitable therapist. 
  • Of the million Australians diagnosed with an eating disorder, only 200,000 receive evidence-based treatment due to a lack of specialised services.

Additional data from the article highlights the prevalence of eating disorders in Australia, with reports showing that:

  • Eating disorders affect one in 20 Australians.
  • Approximately one million Australians were impacted by an eating disorder from 2020 to 2021
  • Young girls are at the highest risk of developing an eating disorder. The report showed that women and girls aged sixteen to thirty-four reported binge eating the year before the study.

In addition, the article illustrates how parents of children with eating disorders develop mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety, with many leaving their jobs and ending significant relationships as they contend with their children’s illnesses.

To learn more about the issues that parents of children with eating disorders face daily, feel free to reach out to us today. We’re here to help. 

Fiona - The Wave Clinic

Fiona Yassin is the founder and clinical director at The Wave Clinic. She is a U.K. and International registered Psychotherapist and Accredited Clinical Supervisor (U.K. and UNCG).

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