Eating Disorders

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    What do you do when you have a student who has eating disorders? What can you do when you see someone else with them? Can you intervene? I have seen a few conservatory students who clearly have problems and feel helpless. What can one do, if anything? And what’s the etiquette if you are with such a person? Can you offer them food?


    If you are not a confident of a person who may have an eating disorder, you cannot intervene.


    Can you intervene? Certainly. It may harm your working relationship with them, but eating disorders can be deadly so I would think in many cases it is worth that risk.

    But no, offering them food isn’t going to help. People with eating disorders typically have access to food. The issue typically are related to control. In many cases eating is one of the few things in life they feel they have any control over.

    Speaking to them directly also may not do any real good as they typically are in denial. Many people with eating disorders may appear blatantly unhealthy, under weight, or malnourished to us, but when they look in a mirror they see themselves as fat. A distorted perception of their weight and eating issues is part of the problem.

    If you are working through

    David Ice

    Tony is right.


    This is such a difficult situation for a teacher. I think that Diane is right, offering support, acceptance

    Evangeline Williams

    If the student is a minor, then you should contact their parent with your concerns.


    Thank you, that is helpful. Thank goodness it is not my own student. It seems a bit odd that it would be a control issue. Then again, I eat more to assert control, I guess, rather than eat what I should. The parents know, to some extent, but with a child who is an adult and away from home, what can they do?

    If it were my student, I think I would say, take a year off, deal with it, and come back when it is working better and you still have a place. Maybe that wouldn’t work either.

    Trista Hill

    This is


    Terrific post Trista. I like the idea very much of encouraging compostion too, and will add that to my repertoire! I do not have any students with eating disorders, but other problems and control issues, and it is so important as a teacher to be able to help but not to enter into the problem and become part of it yourself. As people with big problems have an inadvertant habit of dragging everything and everyone in their lives into it, and it taints all their relationships…which is part of the problem. But that is not meant in an unsympathetic or unkind way, as


    I don’t have much to add that would not be simply repetition. Most schools do have counseling services in place. They may have procedures in place for referring students. It might be possible to submit the name and concern and they will respond based on their policies. I’m not certain they initiate contact with students, but they may at least be able to send out a brochure offering their services or something.

    Since eating disorders often result from perfectionism and a need for control, gaining trust though kindness and consistency is a first step. It is difficult for individuals with this disorder to seek help on their own, so it is a real problem.

    I do want to finish with expressiving my respect for you Saul, to have the concern for someone who is struggling. I appreciate your sincerity and ideal of helpfulness. :o)

    Evangeline Williams

    Saul—I think you said the student isn’t yours, but if they are in Philly, there’s a great eating disorders treatment program in the area, the Renfrew Center.


    A good teacher utilizes the power of example to a large degree.


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