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Eating disorders: a parents' guide. Bryant-Waugh R, Lask B. (Pp 222, paperback; £7.99.) London: Penguin. ISBN 0 14026 371 3

Their children's eating disorders pose serious problems for parents. They may seek professional help, but services in the United Kingdom are fragmented and under developed; therefore, any book that is designed specifically for parents must be welcome.

My clinical experience is that parents appear bemused and shocked by the realisation that their daughter or son has an eating problem. They are often confused and may be angry or in denial. Parents may turn to the popular press, in which articles are sometimes sensible, sometimes sensationalist, worrying, or misleading. High profile cases, such as those of Princess Diana or Lena Zavaroni tend to dominate.

The authors have obviously recognised the lack of sensible self help and advice for parents of younger children and adolescents. This book, therefore, is timely and fills an important gap. A lot of the information is derived from their previous book,Eating disorders in early adolescents(Psychology Press 1999).

One of the main premises of the authors is that parents are the best people to help their child, and they set about informing them how to be in a better position to do so. There are seven main chapters, which cover subjects such as “What are eating disorders?”, “Causes”, “What to do”, “General principles of treatment”, and “Collaboration with professionals”. There are case vignettes, outlines of overall care, therapeutic treatments, and a very sensible dietary plan. A glossary of the terms commonly used in the treatment of eating disorders is provided.

It is difficult to judge at what level to set a book like this. There is a danger of being either too complicated or simplistic and patronising. This book is probably set correctly, but the text is a little heavy, and with only seven figures, mostly graphs, can appear a little dense. At 222 pages, it is not too long and can be read in sections, which is helpful for parents going through a particular stage of treatment or assessment. Naturally enough, the book concentrates upon the treatment plans the authors have used with good effect at Great Ormond Street Hospital.

Overall, I can recommend the sympathetic and caring approach taken by the authors, which will reassure parents.