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TW (eating disorder) Having a sister with anorexia

Hey everyone, 

its been a while since I have posted anything.

I just had a conversation with my parents tonight about my sister. She has had anorexia for around two years now. They told me she might have to be hospitalized soon.

Some of my closest friends have also had eating disorders. Around a year and a half ago I visited my best friend in hospital. She was so thin that it was even affecting her memory.


I am just so scared. I read an article saying that the more people around you with an eating disorder, the more likely you are to get one yourself. 

So many people around me have had them and I am terrified that I will too. Because of this fear I find it really hard to be around my sister. Every time she starts freaking out about food I am scared I will start thinking like this too. I get so fearful that I have to leave the room. I just feel like I can't breathe.

My parents are saying that I really need to support her. And my mum says I should try eating as much as possible in front of her. But how can I support her and eat in front of her when I'm terrified? When I'm scared that I will start thinking/acting the same?


I have struggled with eating at times in the past as well. I don't want to go back to that.


I am probably being selfish. But I just don't know how to answer the questions I have mentioned above. 



Re: TW (eating disorder) Having a sister with anorexia

Hi @Jardin , welcome back to the forums Smiley Happy

Sounds like you and your family are going through a really tough time at the moment. First of all, I don't think you're being selfish. I'm going through a similar situation right now with my own sister (she has bulimia). I've asked myself a lot of the same questions as you, and had similar concerns.


Your parents are right that your sister does need extra support right now, and that support needs to come from everyone around her including you. But you're also not solely responsible for what happens to her, if that makes sense? I think it's actually really natural that you would feel scared to be around her, because anorexia is a really scary thing and it's not something that makes sense or is easy to understand. 


I think that, although your sister does need support, you also do need to put your own needs first. Have you spoken to your parents about how you're feeling? There are lots of amazing resources on RO here, and I also started a thread over in the Getting Help section about my own experience with my sister if you want to read through. 


I'm wondering if there is someone outside of your family, like a close friend, counsellor, psychologist, who you might feel comfortable talking some of this through with?

“Your now is not your forever."
― John Green, Turtles All the Way Down

Re: TW (eating disorder) Having a sister with anorexia

Hi @Jardin!

I'm really sorry about what you, your family and your friends are going through. That sounds so difficult. Smiley Sad I can see where your concerns are coming from. When one family member is sick, it affects the whole family. It can cause a lot of stress for everyone, which can put a dent in your mental health.

Are you able to do things to look after yourself too? That could make it easier for you to support your friends and sister. It doesn't have to be something huge. It could be as simple as doing a hobby, having a warm bath, listening to something relaxing or reading a book. There are a lot of self-care resources and suggestions here. This section of the website is also really useful and applies to your situation.

It sounds like you are under some pressure from your family to help your sister get better. Remember, as hard as it may seem to realise, your sister's health is not your responsibility. I know it sounds harsh, but coming to this realisation has helped me cope with my own family members' health issues. If something is too much for me, I try to get support from others. Being in a positive headspace and taking a break from time to time also helps me support my family members. Are you able to ask other family members for assistance?

This thread might be helpful for eating issues.

I hope things improve for you, your sister and friends soon. Heart

Re: TW (eating disorder) Having a sister with anorexia

Hey @MisoBear and @WheresMySquishy  thank you both so, so much for your support and wonderful replies. Heart You guys truly rock.

I will try the great tips and ideas you guys have mentioned. Smiley Happy

I will keep trying hard to be better.


Re: TW (eating disorder) Having a sister with anorexia

hi @Jardin 


Thank you for being so brave speaking about what has been happening for your sister and what challenges you have been facing.  It sounds like you are really putting a lot of thought into how you can support your sister, and reaching out to the community is massive step Heart

I can see that the community has been here to listen and offer some great support which is amazing to see Heart


I have edited the title of your post to add a trigger warning as some of the what is discussed may be triggering for some members. I have also moved your post to our getting help section within tough times here 

Re: TW (eating disorder): Supporting a sibling with an eating disorder

Hey @Jardin ,


No worries at all. How are things going for you now?

“Your now is not your forever."
― John Green, Turtles All the Way Down

Re: TW (eating disorder): Supporting a sibling with an eating disorder

Hey @MisoBear ,

thanks so much for asking Smiley Happy. I'm sorry I haven't been on Reachout the past week or so- I went to see an Opera with my mum in Sydney- it was heaps of fun! Also I finally got my PsSmiley Very Happy


Things with my sister have been a bit up and down. I have been trying really hard to be a better listener and to comfort her. At times though I get really scared and feel like I cannot breathe. I am trying to get over my fear that by spending more time with her that I will develop an eating disorder too. I know that it is silly, so I am trying to stop feeling so fearful.


A part of me is also really scared that the person who my sister was before the eating disorder is gone. I really miss the old her... we used to get along so well. These days she is always on social media and often only talks either about herself or food. I find it so hard to connect to her.


It can be really tough at times. But I am really trying my best to help her while looking after myself. Sometimes I don't know whether I am doing the right or wrong things.

Re: TW (eating disorder) Having a sister with anorexia

Thank you @Claire-RO Smiley HappyHeart


Re: TW (eating disorder): Supporting a sibling with an eating disorder

Hey @Jardin and @MisoBear 

Just commenting to let you know that I moved your recent comments from Misobear's ED-related thread to here, as they are concerning Jardin' situation. I hope neither of you mind Smiley Happy It's just so that if other users want to support Jardin, they'll have the background information in the same thread Smiley Happy


Jardin, I think it is really lovely of you to put your fears aside to support your sister. It shows great character and is something you should be really proud of. At the same time however, it is a little concerning that you get so fearful that you struggle to breathe. It's important that you look after yourself. I'm just wondering whether you've considered speaking to somebody about how you're feeling? I think it could really help. It sounds like you are grieving your "old" sister, which might also be worth discussing with a counselor. It must be really hard to see your old sister fading away Smiley Sad Hopefully once she gets better, things will go back to how they once were Heart. If you feel up to talking to someone, it might be an idea to contact Kids Helpline. They are accessible via phone (1800 55 1800) or online chat 24/7. Please see our help page here for more information. 

Re: TW (eating disorder): Supporting a sibling with an eating disorder

Hi @Jardin! Congratulations on getting your Ps! Smiley Happy

You're definitely allowed to mourn your sister even though she is still alive. My sister has FND, CRPS and mental health issues and hasn't left the house in months due to her health problems other than to go to the hospital. I really miss the person she was before she became unwell. We used to go shopping, bowling, on walks and holidays together. Those things just aren't the same without her. It's also hard to talk to her sometimes because she's either in pain, in a bad mood or exhausted. She is also always on social media talking to her online friends and playing role playing games as an escape from her situation, so it's hard to tell if she's really listening to what we have to say.

I'm sure your sister has changed a lot and isn't the person she used to be too. I hope that she can get her old self back once her condition improves. Having an illness or mental health issue can really change a person. It helps some people to think of the negative stuff as the illness taking over. Your sister is still in there somewhere. Her eating disorder has just taken charge of her thoughts for now.

Have you tried any techniques to help with your breathing? ReachOut has an app that can help with controlling your breathing. These apps might also be helpful. Meditations can work for some people too.