My Grandaughter was diagnosed with anorexia last year

Your Question

My little Grandaughter age 12  was diagnosed with Anorexia last year , its been a tough year , but she is now eating her meals but not fear foods ,physically she’s much better, mentally she’s not , she self harms ,& has said she’d rather not be here ,her parents have brought her to.many therapy sessions, including CAMHS , but She has such low self esteem & body image, it is heartbreaking to see her in such mental turmoil, she has good days too ,but sadly her negative thinking is always there …CAMHS suggested last year she might be on the spectrum & we feel she is ,she’s having her ASD assessment next week , & we are hoping going forward Clara will get the help she needs, but can Pieta house help her? It’s heartbreaking to see a little girl in such mental turmoil even though she’s taking meds for it , we are hoping because she’s young that she can recover, but it is so tough to see her go through this.

I hope you can give me some advice & direction.


Hi there,

Thank you for contacting Ask Robyn. It can be quite overwhelming for a grand parent or parent to see their child struggle with eating issues. It is positive that you have seen some improvement and that she is going through the process of an autism assessment. However, we do understand the frustration and heartbreak you must have felt going through this journey to reach the right services.

Eating disorders are complicated and often develop in secret. It can take some time to figure out what is going on. Going through this can bring up a wide range of emotions for any carer such as worry, sadness, confusion, guilt and anger.

Anorexia is a complex eating disorder which involves more than restricting food to control weight. It is characterised by an intense fear of weight gain to the degree that the person often engages in a persistent restriction of food, or in a persistent behaviour (e.g., over exercising) to the extent that they often become significantly underweight. It is also characterised by a distorted perception of their body shape or weight and an excessive preoccupation with this. However, not everyone experiences anorexia in the same way and each person exhibits different symptoms. If you would like to learn more about anorexia nervosa you might find these articles useful: ; 

It can be challenging to try and support someone that is struggling with an eating disorder. Most people think that eating disorders are mainly about food and body image, but they are more about conflicts crucial to their sense of identity. Eating disorders can be thought of as a coping mechanism that the person uses to navigate life and it gives them a sense of control when life seems unmanageable, so they can be very hard to let go of. This can make even talking about eating disorders difficult for the person, as it can be quite anxiety provoking if you feel someone is trying to take your coping mechanism away. So, it is important that you can show your grand daughter that you are there to listen in a non-judgemental manner. Empathise that you understand that you see their behaviour as something that makes sense to them in helping them cope and acknowledge how frightening it can be to consider the problematic sides of this behaviour. 

You have also asked about whether Pieta house can offer support. Pieta house provide a range of services to people who are experiencing thoughts of suicide, those who engage in self-harm, and those bereaved by suicide. As you mentioned your grand daughter is engaging in self harm; Pieta house may be able to offer a service to support you or your granddaughter. You can find more information on their website ( )or by calling their crisis line on 1800 247 247.

Meeting your grandaughter’s needs may also be best supported through the process of the autism assessment she is going through so be sure to ask questions and for support throughout this journey. BODYWHYS is a great support around eating disorders and also provides more information in this specific area:

You have the right to get support with this process as it is not easy but remember things can get better for your grand daughter with the right help and support. You also very welcome to contact us on the ISPCC’s Support Line between 9am-1pm Monday-Friday by calling 01 522 4300 or by emailing [email protected] for more information. We hope this information is helpful and I hope you get the support you need.  

Take care,  


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