Anorexia Nervosa is a psychological
disease, often called "slimmer's disease" - although "starver's
disease" might be more descriptive. Typically, anorexics have a low
self-esteem, feeling that they have little impact on others; they
believe that by controlling their bodies they are controlling their
It is common for anorexics to be perfectionists. They
may be abnormally neat, and tend to see things in extremes -
beautiful or ugly, fat or thin. They tend to be good children, who
want to please their parents. They are often passive and agreeable,
not asserting themselves, and often not eating becomes a power
Hurtful comments about their bodies can often be a
trigger. As can an environment which values high achievement and
excellence,which can lead to the belief that the only way to be
valued as a human being is to become perfect.
Recognising the Symptoms
Obsessive exercising, laxative use,
and avoiding eating by saying "I've already eaten", "I'm not
hungry", wearing baggy clothes and an obsession with body shape and
size are all indicators that something may be amiss.
Paradoxically, an obsession with food is also common.
Preparing elaborate and delicious meals, and then not eating with
everyone else; working with food; knowing in detail how many
calories/kilojoules foods contain.
Early recognition and early
intervention are the best way to deal with anorexia. Support from
family and friends is also crucial.
Counselling, therapy at eating disorder clinics and
support groups are all ways of dealing with the problem.
Treatment for eating disorders may encompass:
- Behaviour Modification: a system of
rewards and incentives to change behaviour, often requiring the
sufferer to record food intake and associated feelings.
- Psychotherapy: individually or in
groups. Through psychotherapy, people are helped to correct their
concepts of body-image and to develop positive self-seteem which
enables the lessening of feelings of inadequacy and
- Education: dietitians or
nutritionalists may assist in the retraining of healthy eating
- Family Therapy: the family as a unit,
is encouraged to develop ways to cope with the