National Eating Disorders Association

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I suspect my little brother has an ED

Yesterday my dad called me and told me he thinks my brother has been throwing up after meals. He noticed that my brother doesn't drink any liquids when he eats and the promptly chugs liquid after dinner. He also noticed obvious throw-up underneath the toilet. My dad told me that he confronted my brother about it, asking him if he's been throwing up after meals. My brother denied it and said the throw up was from one time when he ate too many snacks and felt sick. I am in my 20s and don't live with my family, but when I was home last I noticed my brother skipping a lot of meals because he slept in so long. I really only saw him eat dinner, but he said he ate snacks at night when he was still awake playing video games and we were all asleep. He's always considered himself "chubby" and I remember him struggling as a kid regarding it. I am also realizing that he's been obsessed with always chewing gum for the past few months. Maybe that is his way of trying to cover up his breath after purging? My dad had an eating disorder when he was younger for 14 years. He somehow managed to stop his behaviors entirely by himself and seems to think my brother will do the same. I feel so sad and worried and scared. Yesterday after I found out, I reached out to my brother just to play a game online with him and have a casual conversation. I didn't bring anything up about his eating habits because I want to make sure I'm the best support person I can be. Our parents aren't the best proponents of mental health and positive guidance. I also feel so guilty for being far away and not being able to be with him in person. I will be going home in a week though. He hasn't been diagnosed or anything but I don't think I'm overreacting, but maybe somehow the throwing up was just a one time thing? I don't know what to think - I want to take this seriously and be helpful but I also don't want to overreact and be overbearing. Any advice or thoughts would be greatly appreciated


Yeah, who knows what the situation is. But the idea that your dad would think to mention it to you…He probably wouldn't do that if he wasn't concerned. I suppose he could be overly sensitive to the matter, having had an ED himself, but then again because he did have his own struggles he may have an eye for things. For now, it sounds like it could still be hard to draw conclusions.

If it were me, I think it's good if you can just be supportive of your brother as a person. As far as "symptoms" go, I'd keep an eye out for various ways that he feels about himself. People with EDs are often really harshly self-judgmental about themselves, and can question whether they are worthy human beings, so that might be one thing you'd want to look out for.

Otherwise, it sounds like it's still too early to tell. If your dad continues to find "evidence" though, that would be a matter for concern.

Your Brother

I know that this comment was written a long time ago, but I wanted to offer some help. Have you checked for some symptoms of anorexia/bulimia? Specifically for the throwing up, have you checked for the swollen glands on the cheeks/neck area afterwards, that weren't there before? Also, try offering his some of his absolute favourite "unhealthy" food. People with restrictive disorders tend to demonize the food that they love the most. Has he been acting strange, like trying to avoid people, or has he been talking strangely often about food? Oddly, people with ed's tend to love food most, obsessively talking and fantasizing about the foods that they're "not allowed". Has he been staring into space more than often? Acting more grumpy or numb than before?
By the way, I don't think at all that you are overreacting. Often, ed's are caused by feelings of powerlessness. Is there anything that you are aware of that you think could make him feel like this? Most, offer him support. Don't frighten him away by threatening anything, unless you are sure that he's becoming seriously ill. Hope that things are better now.