- Jennette McCurdy, who won awards for her role as Sam in "iCarly," says her mother was a narcissist who taught her anorexic behaviors.
- In her memoir, McCurdy says she developed bulimia, and that her mother would encourage the behavior if she were still alive.
- Children of narcissists are especially susceptible to eating disorders, a psychologist said.
Jennette McCurdy, the award-winning actress known for her role as Sam in Nickelodeon's "iCarly," says her mother taught her anorexia starting at age 11. In her memoir "I'm Glad My Mom Died," McCurdy says her mother Debra physically and emotionally abused her until her death from cancer in 2013.
McCurdy wrote that her mother would constantly comment on how young she looked for her age, which she says her mother believed would help her book more acting roles. Debra, she said, would also cry while holding McCurdy and tell her she wanted her to stay physically small and young.
This led a young McCurdy to think, "If I start to grow up, Mom won't love me as much," and feel guilty at every sign of normal growth, like developing breasts and getting taller. She asked her mom how she could stop her "boobies from coming" in order to please her, and her mom suggested a "secret thing" called calorie restriction, McCurdy wrote.
Now 30, McCurdy wrote that partaking in anorexic behaviors with her narcissistic mother robbed her of her childhood. She also wrote that if Debra were still alive, she believes she'd support the bulimia McCurdy developed following her death.
Narcissistic parents, who view their children as an extension of themselves, will use control tactics to manipulate them to fit their self-important image, Craig Malkin, a psychologist and author of "Rethinking Narcissism," told Insider.
He said if a narcissist is "caught up" with fame and physical attractiveness as ways to prove their self-esteem and importance, they prioritize getting those things at all costs, including their children's health.
As a child, McCurdy says she would 'team up' with her mom for calorie counting and weekly weigh-ins
As a child, McCurdy said she viewed her mother's obsession with her size as a sign of love.
They would "team up" to count their calories and stay accountable with their weight goals, she wrote. That included weekly weigh-ins.
In order to control their children, narcissistic parents will often reserve praise and emotional availability for moments their child behaves exactly as they would like, according to Malkin.
"She was telling her, 'In order for you to be special to me, you have to perform in the right way. You have to look the right way. You have to achieve certain things,'" Malkin said.
When a child notices this, they do anything to win the narcissist's approval, even if it means pretending to like something they don't or hiding parts of themselves, he said.
McCurdy wrote that she weighed herself five times a day to have the best weekly weigh-in possible and impress her mom.
After her mom died, McCurdy started bingeing and purging
When her mother died, McCurdy said she developed bulimia and couldn't stop bingeing and purging. She said she viewed purging was a way to undo the shame she felt about eating.
As adults, children of narcissists may subconsciously develop behaviors that recreate the feeling they had as a child when they had to win their parents' approval, said Malkin. Since bingeing and purging is often related to shame and guilt, those acts could be ways to experience those emotions and continue the feeling of codependency, even if the narcissist isn't physically around.
He said it's a "complicated grief reaction" that could be in response to losing a narcissistic parent, and could also be a way to hide from difficult emotions they had to ignore as a child to please their parent.
If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline (1-800-931-2237) on weekdays for support, resources, and information about treatment options. In crisis situations, NEDA offers 24/7 support — just text "NEDA" to 741741.