Books/resources on siblings of anorexic children?
October 10, 2018 6:50 AM   Subscribe

CW: disordered eating Please recommend resources (books, websites, research papers, memoirs, youtube channels, useful search keywords etc) that will help me understand the experience and long-term psychological impact of children who grew up with an anorexic sibling.

I am primarily interested in this topic to make sense of my own personal history-- this is not for research work and not for any specific kid right now. I.e. hotlines, counselling options and so forth are not what I am looking for.

I should also say that my sister was never diagnosed with an eating disorder, but I think this was partly because nobody in our milieu had ever heard of eating disorders and mental health issues was severely stigmatized at that time/place. Basically what happened was that my sister was briefly hospitalized for diarheea as a newborn. My parents blamed themselves, worried excessively about long term effects, and rearranged everything around her eating (or, more often, not). She was a picky eater, weak in constitution, and was on the small side basically her entire childhood and teenage years, and my parents helicoptered over her eating, weight, and health until she left home for college. I, on the other hand, was the textbook definition of healthy and strong.

I have been on a bender and in pyschodynamic therapy to understand myself and the knots with my family-- why I feel so abandoned, why I am so angry, why it enrages me to see my sister diet as an adult, why I feel ashamed and disgusting and outraged when when I am around her... etc. It recently occurred to me that the way my family operated around her acceptance or refusal of food on any given day was remarkable similar to families with an anorexic child (and...probably without proper counselling). There are lots of books and memoirs about the experience of having an eating disorder, and I've read many of them, but I am having a hard time finding discussions on the impact on the sibling. Please recommend resources!
posted by atetrachordofthree to Human Relations (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
NB: I have intentionally left out as much detail as possible about how my family (dys)functioned around my sister eating and weight. I don't want this to become an indictment of my parents or my sister-- I don't think anyone had any malicious intents. I am fully and completely aware that some children are naturally small and that's not at all an eating disorder, and I am not trying to retrospectively give my sister a WebMD diagnosis. I just think reading about similar family dynamics will help me.
posted by atetrachordofthree at 6:56 AM on October 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

I have looked for similar things to read to help my daughter deal with someone (not sibling) very close to her having a diagnosed eating disorder for the last 4 years without much luck. Most things are geared to helping the patient not teaching those around them how to help or deal with the situation without going down with them. I went as far as calling the last place her friend was hospitalized to ask how to help my daughter deal because i couldn't find anything. (no return phone call- probaby cause i sounded like as ass asking for help for my healthy daughter).

So, we have dealt with it like the addiction it is and used resources for substance abuse etc. not perfect but similar to the dynamic. You might look into some of those resources. It is different because an eating disorder has less of a stigma or atleast a different kind of one than substance abuse. And in a way much harder for people to understand.
posted by domino at 7:47 AM on October 10, 2018 [3 favorites]

Unfortunately, with eating disorders generalized as "women's problems", there's never been money or significance placed on that kind of research and I don't think what you're looking for exists. Like domino suggests, you may find some useful material related to substance abuse, and there may be some decent material regarding growing up with a sibling/family member with significant health problems, which is also what you experienced. Your sibling may have not had cancer or head injury or the sort of things that make popular books, but the family dynamics would be similar.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:51 AM on October 10, 2018

On Preview, I was going to say what Lyn Never just said.

You might try a search for "sibling of chronically ill child", because you mentioned the way your family centred your sister's health and eating patterns. I just used that term and got lots of some books and journal articles but can't advocate any of the results myself.

My own family dynamic centred around my brother's behavioural, and social issues - and it still does though he's turning 40, and I did get some insight from that kind of searching in the past.
posted by buildmyworld at 8:57 AM on October 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

Anecdotally, a sibling whose problems get them all the attention is amply rewarded for having them. It's not a conscious plan and no one is "to blame." The other part of the pattern is that the other sibling feels angry and cheated.
posted by Obscure Reference at 12:42 PM on October 10, 2018

Not sure if this is what you want, but these themes are addressed in the movie Hunger Point, which stars Christina Hendricks as the sister of a girl with disordered eating.
posted by ananci at 2:33 PM on October 10, 2018

There's a short story on this theme in Hilary Mantel's short story collection The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher
posted by Morpeth at 1:42 PM on October 11, 2018

This isn't really eating disorder related, but emotional neglect can do a lot of damage to a child and sometimes happens to siblings of special needs kids.
posted by Blue Genie at 9:12 PM on October 13, 2018

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