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Anorexic neighbour - would a shocked response help?

8 replies

isitmidnightalready · 12/01/2011 23:05

I have a neighbour who I don't see often. She is off work with anorexia( I know she is off work and have been told the reason by a third party). I don't see her often - maybe every month or two. I did see her the other day as I was driving past her in the street and I was shocked by how skeletal she had become.

My question is - would it be helpful or not for me to show my shock at her appearance when I next bump into her? I don't know her very well, but do have odd conversations with her.

My attempts to search and look through this topic on mumsnet and see if there is any advice on this kind of thing has only really found one poster who has been advised she is anorexic but feels like a fraud and can't believe it. I am wondering if my neighbour feels the same and if it would be helpful (or just horribly intrusive and offensive) for me to comment on her appearance.

The neighbour has some friends nearby but no family around. I don't think she has a great support network.

What do you think? I am really not being nosy but think that if she does not know that she is very very thin, then maybe it may be helpful. I am trying to draw a parallel - I am several stones overweight and would be mortified if someone mentioned it, but then I do know it, and mention it myself in jest. Is all anorexia about denial and not having a true picture of one's appearance?

If you all told me to keep well out of it and how dare I think of such a thing, then fair enough. But would it be of any use at all to be shocked next time I meet my neighbour face to face?

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bibbitybobbityhat · 12/01/2011 23:07

Sadly I do not think your shocked reaction would have any effect whatsoever. But no harm in trying?

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isitmidnightalready · 13/01/2011 00:21

Thanks for that, bibbity. Anyone else got any thoughts?

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ChippingIn · 13/01/2011 00:23

Sorry I don't - hopefully if we keep it bumped though someone might be able to help. I know there are some women here who have had anorexia in the past.

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Kewcumber · 13/01/2011 00:23

if she is off work with anorexia then presumabky she knows she has it and a double take form a neighbour is unlikley to affect matter and may well embarass her.

Why not be more straight forward - just tell her you are aware that she is off sick with anorexia and is there anything you can do to help?

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A1980 · 15/01/2011 00:20

TBH I had a member of my family who was anorexic for several years. I#ve had an upclose and personal look at the disorder.

They are truly sick and have a very distorted view of reality. Even though she was skeletal and we were normal she would scream and rave and say she was sick and tired of us all starving ourselves adn that she was the only one who ate in the family.

When I saw her, she competed with me and everyone else. She wouldn't let a mouthful of food pass her lips unless I ate mine first. She didn't want to be seen to be eating more than anyone else.

They're very competitive IMO as were the others in the clinic she attended. We had so many people talk to her and say how beauiful she was before she did it and how horeendous she looked now. You know what she enjoyed it!

Your neighbour will probably like it that you've noticed how thin she is.

If there's on thing I learned about anoriexia over the 7 long years I saw it in my family, the best thing to do is ignore them.

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isitmidnightalready · 16/01/2011 23:31

Blimey, thanks for that A1980. That is interesting. I have no clue if all anorexics are the same, but it seems to be the way from your relative's clinic. I shall have to think about this. That personalty type doesn't seem to fit with my neighbour's personality but then I am not as close to her as you are to your relative. I do see an element of competitiveness in it, though. Maybe I'll just ask generally about her health when I see her and see where it goes.

Still interested if anyone else has ideas or experiences of this.

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isitmidnightalready · 09/03/2011 00:33

Just an update and thanks for the ideas. I recently saw my neighbour and asked her in quite general terms about her ill heath and she was a bit open about it and told me how she can't wait to be signed off well enough to go back to work. So it worked, with no direct shock tactic. Good advice from MNetters

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HonestyBox · 09/03/2011 18:42

Hi, I just read this. Well done for mentioning it. Keep talking to her if you can. I used to be anorexic, never to the degree of going into hospital or anything but I recognise those thought patterns. Usually it is nothing to do with weight or food, there are underlying issues and food/weight becomes a way to physically enact the trauma.

I agree with the person who said that she might be pleased that you've been shocked at her weight. I certainly felt like that when people started saying how awful I looked, in fact it spurred me on and made my illness worse. So, it is good you didn't take that approach of being shocked. I do think it should be mentioned and talked about though, if anorexics use their bodies to publicly display their mental health problems then we should take that as a cue that something needs to be addressed.

It is a lot of work to get through anorexia, it becomes an addiction in itself over and above the initial mental health problem. I don't think the NHS is really equipped to deal with it, getting anorexics together or a focus entirely based on food are definite no-nos. I hope your neighbour is okay.

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