National Eating Disorders Association

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oldersister
How can I encourage my sister to seek help?

A year ago, in a bit of isolation and loneliness, my sister told me she had be purging for years. We talked through it and I naively thought the problem would go away. I recently learned she had a relapse this week. With Covid-19 quarantine she is stuck at home in the same environment in which her symptoms started. She is unwilling to actively seek help. In the back of her mind she want's to heal, but can't get herself to approach resources.

How can I encourage her to seek help?

BobJ48
Older Sister

".. my sister told me she had be purging for years. We talked through it and I naively thought the problem would go away…"

First off, don't feel bad if you thought things would get better. Things like this can be way more persistent than most people realize, and sometimes you just have to see it for yourself to understand that. Because yeah, it can stick around, and it can flair up again even if people seem to have recovered.

" I recently learned she had a relapse this week. "

While you didn't say, I bet she isn't happy about it either.

" She is unwilling to actively seek help. In the back of her mind she want's to heal…"

Yep, both of those things can be true at the same time. It's pretty common for people to have that sort of ambivalence. Plus If she's had these same issues off and on in the past, she may feel like she's doomed to continue like this and etc. Negative thoughts about their chances of really getting free of it.

One thing that can happen though, is that people can start to catastrophise about their situation. They have a past history, are OK for a while, but then they purge once or twice and think that means that they're doomed for this big relapse. When really, they just purged a couple of times, which doesn't necessarily have to signal the end of the world.

If things continue to seem bad for her, one idea you can introduce is the idea of taking a risk. Sure, she could decide to see a therapist, and after working up the courage to do that, the two of them might not click at all. Or she could see some marvelous therapist, and even then she might not get well. Or it's just possible that she could meet one that's actually helpful. The truth is that there's just no way to know ahead of time, which gets back to the idea of risk-taking, and how she does or doesn't feel about that.

Anyhow, if she worries that this relapse is going to be a persistent thing, the idea that she may need to take some emotional risks is one thing that you could bring up, if it seems like she'll need outside help.