Our daughter is living at home with us after finishing college last year. She's 22. Publically she espouses a vegetarian diet (we do not), but primarily late at night or during the day when we're at work and she has an evening work shift, she chews and spits almost anything she can find in the kitchen, vegetarian or not. If we ask her not to eat something because we have future plans for it, it makes no difference. It all disappears, and we find the masticated food in the trash, sometimes uncooked and straight out of the can/box. It is apparently an obsessive/compulsive behavior.
It's gotten to the point where, if we wish to make food for ourselves at home rather than the more expensive option of eating out, we have to buy only what we can manage to eat for dinner each day or we'll go bust financially trying to keep food on the shelves - she consumes 4-5 times what a normal person would eat and digest. We've explained to her, non-confrontationally, that there is body of evidence that points to chewing and spitting as a harmful practice, and voiced our concerns about the financial and other hazards of the behavior. She seems to be in denial, refuses to talk about it and is unwilling to open up whenever we broach the subject or suggest a course of action.
We suspect that depression may be the root cause of the behavior, as there is other evidence that she has a low self-esteem and doesn't much care for her life. We are on good, loving terms with her, are supportive of her plans and do not charge her any sort of rent for staying with us, in the expectation that she's setting certain plans in motion that will allow her to move to the next level of her life. But she refuses to entertain the notion that she has depression, and won't admit to the chewing and spitting.
How common is this? Is there a link between depression and eating disorders? And what should we do that we haven't already done?
My heart is with you for struggling with this situation and trying to help your daughter. Eating disorders of whatever type are very common, especially in young women. And yes, there is a strong link between depression and eating disorders. Unfortunately, you are in a hard position, because your daughter is denying a problem, no matter how you approach her. You say she is setting plans in motion to move to the next level of her life, and I would continue to expect this to happen in a timely manner. You sound very caring, but her behavior is causing a major disruption in your life and it isn't helpful to anyone to allow that to continue indefinitely. If you are concerned for her well-being you can certainly continue to express that and request her to see someone "just to talk". Sometimes it is easier for a young person to talk to an objective professional than her family, who she may not want to worry. Good luck with this. Your daughter definitely needs help and recovery from her eating disorder as well as the mood disorder you see as accompanying it. I hope she gets it soon. The less time someone has had an eating disorder the better their chances of recovery. I myself have 16 years recovery from an eating disorder, but waited until I was much older than your daughter to get that recovery.
I can so relate to your situation with your daugher. We too have been struggling with this disorder. Our daughter has been chewing and spittting now for 4 years. We too have no food on the shelves and the grocery bill is huge. I have to shop everyday just to have breakfast cereal and have had to put a lock on our bedroom door to hide food. Sometimes I wish we had our own fridge in the bedroom. It's driving me crazy and we have battled to get her help. I finally started attending a parents support group for eating disorders... she was so concerned about me attending that she finally agreed to obtain some help.... I think we are in for a long struggle but we at least now are on the road. Maybe see if there is a support group in your area.
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