National Eating Disorders Association

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How to HELP my Sister

My sister has always been clinically depressed since we were kids but about a month and a half ago my mother asked me if I noticed if my sister had an eating disorder. It made me think back to when we were kids and all the different habits my sister had with food. Fast forward to this past weekend when we were in New York on a family vacation, I witnessed her in the middle of her purging. Seeing my sister standing over the sink with puke on her face after we were just laughing and joking about going out, truly broke my heart and made me angry. I feel angry that I never noticed she was doing this and that I am studying to be a family therapist and never notice signs in my own home.
I am lost! I feel horrible my sister is going through this. As her older sister I am heart broken and have no clue on how to help. Please advise on how I be there for her?

How to Help

Hi SamanthaDaphne,

Welcome to the NEDA forums! Thank you for sharing your sister's story with us. Don't beat yourself up for not noticing that your sister was doing this - many people with EDs work hard to hide their symptoms, even from family and friends. Oftentimes, they are ashamed and scared because of their ED. One of the best things you can do for your sister is to let her know that you are there for her and that you support her. You can also encourage her to seek professional help with a therapist or eating disorder specialist.

If you would rather talk to someone about your sister and how best to help, you can call the NEDA hotline at 800-931-2237 M-Th 9-9 EST and F 9-5 EST. There are also a lot of great resources on the NEDA website that can help someone learn how to support a loved one with an ED. I recommend checking out the Parent Toolkit - I promise its not just for parents! It has a lot of great ways on how to support a loved one that struggles with an ED.

Please don't be angry with yourself - it is extremely difficult to notice the signs of ED, especially in those close to us. Love and support are the best things you can give to your sister. Make sure that she knows that she is not alone and that you will be right by her side helping her along the way.

Please keep us posted!

- ashleyk

Thank You!

Thank you Ashley! My sister just told me that the doctors told her that they do not know how she has not fainted because her B12 levels are so low that it is in a danger zone and that the muscles around her heart are weak. I am honestly scared! I am also struggling because my job is a polar opposite of people who suffer with ED.
I truly hope this is not taken in an offensive way by anyone, but I go to work everyday for agency, in which it's mission is to end extreme poverty across the world and so I have seen the other side of things. I have seen kids who have had no food to eat for days and it clouds their ability to function and they exhibit some of the same things that my sister is going through. I also know that in both situations it is not by choice it is by circumstance. I do know in both instance I want to help but I am stuck. I know how to help the kids in poverty stricken areas but I am truly struggling when it comes to helping my sister maybe because I guilt for not noticing something so close.

Hi SamanthaDaphne,

To reiterate what ashleyk said, please don't feel guilty about this. You hold no fault in your sister's development of an ED and I truly hope you can see that. I would definitely recommend suggesting professional help to your sister as ashleyk said as well. Professional help is so important in recovering from an eating disorder, and I truly think your sister would benefit greatly from it. Also, reminding your sister that you're there for her will probably put her at ease. She may be having trouble opening up, but knowing that you're there if she ever wants to will definitely help her. Finally, I would suggest possibly seeking professional help for yourself as well. Being the supporter of someone with an eating disorder can be extremely stressful, so I would highly recommend considering seeing someone yourself.

Stay strong! Please keep us updated.


Hi SamanthaDaphne,
I'm sorry to hear about your sister! I hope she recovers soon. Is she interested in getting treatment? I agree with Tori, you may want to consider speaking to someone yourself since this is such a difficult thing to cope with, especially as a big sister. Please don't blame yourself though!! Keep us updated.


Help with you sister - Reply

Hi SamanthaDaphne!

I am also very sorry to hear about your sister and I agree with what many of the other members of the forum have posted. Try not to beat yourself up about it because sometimes the sufferer of an eating disorder can become very secretive about his or her illness and behaviors. I know from my own personal experience with an eating disorder, my older sibling went through a lot with me. My older brother would get angry with me when he would find out I was engaging in eating disorder behaviors and he would become even more angry with me when he found out I was keeping it from him. It can be very devastating to watch a loved one go through this and to feel like you don’t know how to help. However, as ashleyk stated above, letting her know that you are there for her and that she is loved and supported in this difficult time can be very helpful for the both of you.
The NEDA website also has a lot of great resources for yourself and your sister. We have a NEDA Information and Referral Helpline phone number you can call, where you can chat with someone privately and to help assess options for yourself and your sister. The phone number is 1-800-931-2237. I hope that helps and feel free to comment and/or post as often as you would like on the forums!


HELP my sister <3

my 15 year old sister was recently diagnosed with anorexia about 3 months ago, she has been receiving treatment since. she was first inpatient then underwent outpatient treatment and was just recently discharged.
since then she has seemed complaint with her meal plan but its difficult to see her upset and cry because she is upset about her self image. i just dont know what to say or do to make her feel better. i feel so helpless. she thinks im being insensitive about her situation but im trying to understand the situation myself, its even more frustrating because theres not much support group or treatment centers where we are located.

any information would be very much appreciated :)

Hi rociom58

Hi rociom58,

I'm sorry to hear about your sister, but I am glad she is getting the help she needs and deserves. I know from personal experience how hard it can be to try to understand what your sister is going through. You may want to read up on the Parent Toolkit. I know she is your sister, but this Toolkit gives great information regarding supporting a family member with an eating disorder. It can be found at Patience is key when trying to understand what your sister is dealing with. If she continues with her therapy and has what seems like a great support network at home, I am confident she can beat the anorexia! I hope this helps a bit, and just know that the recovery process takes time. Lots and lots of time. But she will get there, especially if she has you to help her along the way. Good luck and please keep us updated! :)