National Eating Disorders Association

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Running out of Options

Hello all. My sister suffers from a severe eating disorder, anxiety, etc. and has for many years now. She has been in and out of treatment but cannot seem to change her ways. She is 30 years old and lives with my parents along with her 6 year old child of whom she has split custody. Although she has just recently begun working part-time again, she is entirely dependent upon my parents for all other costs (housing, medical, insurance, etc.). We have seemingly tried every method in handling the situation but nothing has worked and her disease has caused a major riff within our family.

After years of struggle, her relationship with my parents is nearly beyond repair; however, my parents continue to financially support her even though they can barely speak to one another without fighting. My parents have also gotten to a point where they just try to ignore the problem, but that has only made matters worse for everyone involved.

I can continue on for hours, but my first question is whether or not my parents enabling my sister only makes the problem worse. The one thing they have never done is given her an ultimatum and stuck with it. I think this is due to their concern for their grandchild, but I believe the only thing that might make my sister change at this point is if she truly has to face the consequences of her own actions. Am i wrong in thinking this? I know it is unfortunate, but our entire family is left to deal with the outcomes of her actions and have suffered physically, mentally, emotionally, and financially because of it. This has been going on for over five years now and nothing else has seemed to work.

What are your thoughts on our situation? I appreciate any feedback you may have for me.

Thank you.

Hang in there!

Hi mbc123!

I am so sorry to hear about the situation going on with your sister. It seems like you and your family are going through a lot right now. It is difficult to tell you what exactly to do right now but in my own personal opinion, I do believe that your parents enabling your sister is making the situation worse. However, I do feel like this type of situation is not uncommon though.

Coming from someone who has struggled with an eating disorder, I was very co-dependent with one of my parents for a long time and it was only when I realized the consequences of my actions that I started to get better. I do not think you are wrong in saying that your sister will only change once she has faced the consequences of her own actions. Have you ever discussed with your parents what it would be like if they did not support your sister financially? Do you and your parents see therapists individually? Maybe this is something you could bring up during a session?

The NEDA website also has a link:
which helps support families and friends of those struggling with an eating disorder by providing resources that fit your needs. The NEDA Information Referral Helpline is also a great resource to have. The Helpline has volunteers who have extensive training to help you find the help and resources you and your family might need. Helpline volunteers have extensive training to prepare them to be able to help you find information and other support options.

Please keep us updated on how you and your family is doing mbc123! I wish you the best of luck!


Tough Love ?

Matters like this are difficult alright. In this day and age, even perfectly healthy people have been forced to move back with their parents. And what parent would want to see their daughter and grandchild thrown out into uncertain circumstances ?

But it's hopeful that she's started to work part-time I think, as that's got to help her feel a bit less helpless and less out of control of her life. New possibilities, you know ? It's what people with her condition need to see in their lives.

The term "enabling" is a delicate one though I think. Not that there's no such thing, or that it's not happening here, but more that things may not always be quite so simple, when the details of the matter are considered.

So yes it's a hard thing for sure.