National Eating Disorders Association

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Should worry about my 16yo brother?

Hi everybody, My name is CC. I'm 20 and I live at college about half an hour away from my family. I'm worried about my 16yo brother. He's grown very tall and skinny in a very short amount of time. He was a chubby child, and my mom and his soccer coaches used to bother him about it and encourage him to work out more often and eat more healthy. He counted calories for a bit, lost weight, gained muscle and became a very accomplished athlete. They were kind of mean about it though, and I worry the criticism may have negatively affected him and made him obsessive. He doesn't often join us for meals, although I'm not home super often. He eats sort of secretly in the middle of the night, and if I ask my parents if he eats enough, they say he just eats in the middle of the night. This again, might just be what a teenage boy does. However he also is very sensitive about eating food. He will snap at me if I ask, even jokingly, if he eats enough. Over the last year, he has grown very thin and he exercises very often. He plays tennis very seriously and goes to the gym several times a week. This definitely could just be that he's growing very fast and wants to be fit. I know our mom feeds him a big breakfast (I haven't personally been up early enough to see if he eats it. I assume he does or my mom would be worried.) He completely skips lunch at school but usually (according to my mom) eats a big snack when he gets back. A few weeks ago, he actually passed out when he didn't eat an after school snack and fell down the stairs, which scared my dad. My brother, like my mom, passed out a lot as a kid from talking about blood or getting a shot, and I believe his blood pressure is low. Everybody has a different story. My brother claims he didn't pass out from hunger, but instead tripped and hit his head and passed out. My dad claims he had a seizure (which nobody has any history of, and my dad hasn't seen my brother pass out often enough to know what it looks like). My mom believes it was from hunger because he didn't eat all day and plays sports after school. Everybody was freaked out, but it hasn't happened again, and it just got kind of dropped. He doesn't seem to avoid certain kinds of food too much. He certainly doesn't like sweets as much as he used to, and he won't usually indulge in dessert. He obsesses a little over not eating too much junk although he definitely could afford to. Again, this could just be a health-conscious teen. On their own, none of these are entirely concerning (except maybe passing out, but he has always passed out very easily, and the reason is debated). However, this morning I found a bottle under the sink of knock-off weight loss pills that look too sketchy for my parents to have purchased them. When I asked my mom, she said that nobody had claimed them. Since my dad has no reason to hide them, they belong to my brother. I don't have any experience with eating disorders, and the evidence doesn't seem solid enough to bring up to my mom. On top of that, my parents are weird and uncomfortable about mental health problems (I hid my own seasonal depression and anxiety from them through high school and only found a therapist in college). If I bring it up to my brother incorrectly, he will become defensive. He and I have a pretty good relationship, but he sometimes shuts down about certain topics if he isn't in a great mood. I don't think he would confide in me if he were having self image problems. I will be home for winter break for about 5 weeks where I will see him every day, so I will be able to see whats going on. Should I be concerned or am I worrying too much? What should I do? Thanks for your help, CC


Hi. Thank you for posting and for caring so much about your brother. There does seem to be some reason for concern. I am not a professional, but I think he should at least be seen by a medical doctor, just to make sure everything is okay, especially since your dad thinks he had a seizure and the fact that he passed out. Then the doctor can further investigate to see if there are any other possible medical problems, and will know if his weight is not in a healthy range. I am sorry you had to go through struggles with depression alone. That must have been difficult. It is odd that he is eating at night. He may be embarrassed to be seen eating. There is a parent tool kit on the forum, and it may help you if you look through it. Please keep us posted. Anytime someone is concerned about a loved one, even if nothing is wrong, it is never wrong to seek help or ask questions and make sure that loved one is okay. Denial is a huge part of an eating disorder. So he may not answer truthfully. That is part of the illness. So it is okay to be asking questions and for being concerned. I wish you the best.



Hi worriedsister,

First off, I wanted to say welcome to the NEDA online community forums. I am so sorry to hear what your brother and your family are going through right now. I definitely agree with iwanttlive. Have you or your family tried to have your brother seek a medical professional in regards to some of the symptoms he is currently experiencing? Or have you taken a look at the "Parent Toolkit" iwanttlive suggested?

Please keep us updated about how you and your brother are doing. We care about you here on the NEDA online community forums.

Erin_Patricia1 <3

Medical Signs and Symptoms

Hi, we're sorry to hear about what's been going on with your brother and to hear that he passed out. From what you've posted you mentioned some concerning symptoms. We just wanted to provide you with this list to see if he is struggling with anything else. The following are just some of the signs of a serious problem that demands immediate medical attention:• accidentally or deliberately caused themselves a physical injury• become suicidal• confused thinking and is not making any sense• delusions (false beliefs) or hallucinations (experiencing things that aren’t there)• disoriented; doesn’t know what day it is, where they are or who they are• vomiting several times a day or has uncontrollable vomiting or diarrhea• experiencing dizziness or fainting spells• too weak to walk or collapses• painful muscle spasms• complaining of chest pain or having trouble breathing• blood in their bowel movements, urine or vomit• a body mass index (BMI) of less than 16• an irregular heartbeat, and fast heartbeat, or very low heart beat (less than 50 beats per minute)• cold or clammy skin indicating a low body temperature or has a body temperature of less than 35 degrees Celsius/95 degrees FahrenheitOr any other serious medical concernsIf your brother is experiencing any of the above signs and symptoms, we highly recommend seeking medical attention as soon as possible. Another option is 911.

How to Help A Loved One

Hi Worriedsister,You asked what you should do to support your brother so we also wanted to direct you to some information on our website about how to help a loved one that you may find helpful: 

How is your brother.

Hope ur brother is ok did he redcober ok with the anorexia issues.

I had this issue myself