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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    My sister suffers from depression, anxiety and is severely overweight, How can I help her?

    My sister suffers from depression and anxiety and is severley overweight. She is in denial of these issues and becomes very defensive when I make any suggestions to anything that relates to her life. She uses blame a lot and shelters herself within the world of her children though she doesn't communicate with them properly and uses them as a tool in which she can believe she still has control and power. Her weight issues rule her life and make her incapable of any physical or psychological action that requires her to take responsibility for herself and lead herself through her depression and anxiety (i.e. admit, seek help). She has been diagnosed with anxiety which she seems to be comfortable with, however someone once mentioned that she may suffer depression and she denied in excessive anger. She is extremely defensive and I do not know how or what to say to her. I desperately need advice on how to help her seek professional help in any way.
  • Find a professional to answer your question

  • My research interests include immunology and the mechanisms of amyloid formation. The latter has implications for people who are dealing with Alzheimer's Disease, Parkinson's Disease … View Profile

    It sounds to me that you have a very complicated relationship with your sister.

    This is *just* an observation but from what you have written I have the impression that you may be judging her/making assumptions about her to some extent - I am not *at all* intending to be critical here - it is just my take on the tone of what you wrote.  I stress that this is only a thought (and I could very easily be wrong) but it is an observation for you to ponder.

    From personal experience, accepting that one has a (completely treatable) illness like depression is not easy. And, of course I do not know if that is the case for your sister.

    Perhaps you could suggest to her that she goes back to the health professional (GP?, clinical psychologist?) who diagnosed her with anxiety to talk about the possibility of depression?

    As far as her weight is concerned, her GP should be able to give her a referral to a registered dietitian who should be able to help with her diet.

    If she would rather not do that, this link is searchable for registered dietitians where she lives: .

    All the best.


  • 2


    Kristen Ross

    Counsellor, Kinesiologist

    Kristen Ross is a qualified Kinesiologist, Counsellor and Sports Therapist.Affinity Wellness is her holistic wellness practice offering a holistic wellness experience by focusing on all … View Profile

    Unfortunately it is sometimes very difficult for us to help the ones we love when we see them suffering. It sounds as though your sister is quite defensive about the issues that she faces and she may be well aware of them but unable to discuss or aknowledge them because of her own shame, anger, frustration etc. It is often hardest for us to take advice from those close to us as it can be easily perceived as critiscim.
    From what you have said it sounds as though you are ‘too close’ to help your sister unless she is willing to make changes herself.
    What you can do is step back from the situation and lead by example through healthy eating and exercise which are both proven to help with depression and encourage (being careful not to critiscise) her to join you in the healthy activities that you are taking on.
    Learning some key counselling and listening skills can help you to change the way you communicate with her so that she feels comfortable being more open with you. A counsellor can help you to attain these skills or try finding a short counselling course where you can learn key communication skills. 

    Best wishes. 

  • number2

    HealthShare Member

    I have a complicated relationship with my sister, its true but I don't judge her.  I might be angry at her and desparate for help, but its because I desparately want her to live her life to the fullest.
    Thank you very much Kristen.  I will try to work with her as you mentioned, unfortunately it is an exhausting process that I have attempted on numerous ocassions and I often end up in tears behind closed doors because I get so upset.  This has been going on for many years… it is heart breaking.  Sometimes I have to remove and distance myself from the situation because I can't deal with it myself.
    There is no easy answer, but I will keep coming back to your advice for positive reinforcement.  You have shed some light on how to adjust my attitude going foward.
    Thank you again.

  • 8



    HealthShare Member

    I have the same issue with my sister. There is really nothing you can try for it is her problem and you cannot change her. I have a theory that such people are in our lives to show us that it is not necessary to be a victim.It is a cliche, however, it is true that you can only control your reaction to her.  My sister calls me several times a day to complain about everyone and everything. At first, I took the calls whenever for she is divorced with grown kids. Now I limit them. She wanted to go on my family vacations and I did that once or twice and it was a disaster. No I just say no. I set limits and boundaries and try to be as honest and kind as possible. Your sister and my sister my have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from a nasty marriage or a difficult divorce or a traumatic childhood. My sister is in denial about her weight (squeezes into clothes way too small) and her own behavior. If you notice, everything is someone else's fault and she is the victim. She expects to be treated awfully and she often is. So relax and learn and be kind. DO NOT FEEL GUILTY for having a better life. Be direct, honest and set boundaries. Preface things with phrases like “I am not intentionally trying to hurt your feelings,,,”,,,,, however ….. .  If you  are spiritual in any way, pray. There is lots of research on that so if you can't call it prayer than call it intention setting. Be clear with your goals and your needs and do not take on her as a child. You will not change her so set the example, and say “I love you to her often” and say “what good happened today” or “what can you be grateful for”. That, in my experience, is all you can do.  Keep strong and have faith. Therapists may not see the whole picture or see what the truth is. Also, write down conversations with her and run them by a counselor who is competent. Think of her as down a deep well and she only sees dark. Help her see the light.  

  • number2

    HealthShare Member

    Last night I cried and cried and cried while my partner held me and tried to comfort me. Unfortunately my sister continues to break my heart and scar the lives of those most dearest and dependent on her. Your response has come at a time when i really need to remind myself that it is not for me to feel guilty, and upset that i can not help her. As hard as it is. Thank you.

  • 1



    Hi. I am in the same situation as you. My sister has extreme anxiety, depression and chronic health conditions all of which keep her on disability. Over the last 15 years she has really isolated herself and pushed many friends away. Now she only has my Mother. She is horrible to those that help her the most. Angry, mean words. Shaming and blaming text messages that bombard you all day long. I wish my Sister peace and I wish she wouldn't resist treatment - pharmaceutical, counselling therapy, alternative medicine, spiritual practices - but, she does. As you have expressed, it can be very hard to be on the recieving end of things. It will eventually impact your own wellness severely. I am currently processing how to set limits. It breaks my heart to have to have limits when my Sister is most in need, but it is necessary. Dealing with MY feelings about it all and how I can carry on my life allowing myself to give her only minimal support - because if not I will reach my own tipping point - is where the struggle is at for me right now. Between rock and hard place....but hopefully that applying reason to the circumstances is the only way to stay afloat...

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