National Eating Disorders Association

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18 year old sister potentially has bulimia and idk what to do

Context: I haven’t seen my sister in a year due to her moving to Florida to be with her biological father (who hasn’t been in her life for at least 16 years but that’s another story) and she has been living with my mom in California, and they have always had a tumultuous relationship. Neither one has been great to the other, my mom has talked about my sisters weight a lot, especially when she was going through puberty, and my sister has always tried to disobey my moms rules. My sister has also been manipulative with money and has just been mean to everyone, including myself, leaving to be with her friends only 2 hours after I’ve landed, despite listening to her over the phone as well as help her financially despite not having a job myself.

At dinner tonight, my sister had a pretty small amount of curry and 15-20 minutes later, went to the bathroom saying her stomach hurt. My mom and I then both heard her turn the sink on and my mom knew right away what she was doing, and yelled at my sister to unlock the door, and when she did I saw the sink was in fact on and we both saw her trying to make herself sick.

My mom has essentially given up on my sister, saying that the stress is not worth it for her health (she struggles with ovarian cysts from time to time and they get worse when she’s stressed) and she has encouraged me to do the same, but as the oldest sister at 22, and my sister being 18, don’t want to and I don’t want to be responsible for her death if there’s something I can do.

I don’t even know if there IS anything I can do, she pushes everyone away willing to help her (including myself) and I even recommended her a therapist that would take her insurance, but she hasn’t seemed to reach out to her.

I'm sorry this is happening,

I'm sorry this is happening, it's a very tense situation, and it will be tough to figure out what to do. Maybe sit her down and tell her how much you love her and why what she is doing is not necessary. I think it's important that your family stays united, and does not get frustrated or angry with her.

Help for your sister.

You wrote :

" I even recommended her a therapist that would take her insurance, but she hasn’t seemed to reach out to her."

The thing is, people with bulimia often don't want to be helped. They want to continue doing what they are doing instead. When you
recommended that she see a therapist, she probably understood you to mean that you wanted her to get therapy to get rid of her eating disorder. Which is something she probably does not want to get rid of. So no wonder she didn't follow up.

However…it sounds like she has plenty of other things she could talk to a therapist about. How she doesn't get along with your mom, and how everyone tries to control her, and other things of that nature.

Which are legitimate things to be concerned about, and which may also have some tie-ins with her eating disorder.

So yeah, it's not like she has to necessarily get help for her ED, she could get help for other things too. Which is an idea which might sound more appealing to her ?

Anyhow, just some thoughts. Things like this are difficult, and sometimes you gotta come at them from the side to begin with, rather than starting by confronting them head on.