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  • Disorders & Issues
  • Eating Disorders

Introduction To Eating Disorders

Michael W. Adamowicz, LICSW

We live in an image conscious culture, which urges all of us (especially women) to improve our appearance. The messages sent by magazines, t.v., and other media include “buy certain clothes and products; straighten and whiten your teeth; get rid of your wrinkles; and most commonly, LOSE WEIGHT and you will be happy, admired, and loved.” The recent and recurrent debate concerning the unhealthy, stick thin models used in the fashion industry is a perfect example of how strongly entrenched our notion of “thinness equals happiness” has become.

Although many of us would benefit from eating a bit less and exercising more in order improve our health and fitness, simply watching what you eat is NOT an eating disorder. Eating Disorders are potentially life-threatening illnesses which are simultaneously psychological and physical in nature. They are characterized by a range of abnormal and harmful eating behaviors which are accompanied and motivated by unhealthy beliefs, perceptions and expectations concerning eating, weight, and body shape. As a general characterization, individuals with eating disorders tend to have difficulty accepting and feeling good about themselves. They tend to think of themselves as “fat” and “ugly” because of their body size and shape, even when this self-judgment is objectively inaccurate and false. Identifying and defining themselves according to their perceived “fatness”, eating disordered people tend to conclude that they are unacceptable and undesirable, and as a result, feel quite insecure and inadequate, especially about their bodies. For them, controlling their eating behaviors is the logical pathway in their quest for thinness.

The current article is designed to provide you with more information about the nature of eating disorders, their causes, potential treatments, and strategies for prevention. This information can be helpful in determining whether you or someone you love has an eating disorder. Before we begin, though, we want to stress two important points:

First, if you (or someone you love) have an eating disorder, YOU ARE NOT ALONE! Between 5 and 10 million Americans have anorexia or bulimia and another 25 million suffer with binge eating disorder. Hopefully, knowing that other people have experienced what you are going through, and have gotten better with treatment, will provide you with some sense of hope.

Second, don’t rely on your “willpower” to get over this condition. As mentioned previously, an eating disorder is a serious, potentially life-threatening disease. Between 6% and 20% of eating disordered individuals will literally die as a result of their disease. Seek PROFESSIONAL help for yourself or someone you love as soon as possible if you suspect there is a problem.

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  • Two Case Studies of Anorexia Nervosa Essay

Two Case Studies of Anorexia Nervosa Essay

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Anorexia nervosa is (AN) eating disorder that makes those afflicted attempt and succeed at losing weight until they reach a state of malnourishment for their body size, age and height. Patients with anorexia nervosa have an acute fear of gaining even the slightest weight despite being exceptionally underweight. People who suffer from this disorder use various methods such as over-exercising or over-dieting to avoid gaining any more weight (A.D.A.M., 2013). This disorder has implications regarding one’s security, psychological, emotional, and most importantly, physical health. It can lead to death if too extreme because the patient lacks the intake of necessary nutrients to function. Two case studies describe individuals who try overcoming

…show more content…

Their case study provides a brief background of eating disorders and details regarding its prevalence followed by a case of a 28-year-old woman named Victoria who has a history of AN, and who seeks counseling for fear of impending relapse. Victoria receives 10 narrative therapy sessions where she conveys the characteristics of her non-eating disorder, which she calls “A-Rex”. Throughout therapy, Victoria makes significant improvement. Although A-Rex still bothers Victoria once in a while, she continues to make therapeutic progress. Both of these case studies share similar and differing strengths and weaknesses in their research design. The first patient’s life and well-being improve after therapy where she releases her deep underlying feelings. The steps of the case formulation reveal factors that are associated with anorexia (such as a lack of appreciation and attention from her parents which has dampened her self-esteem) (Dolhanty & Greenberg, 2009). By acknowledging these issues, contributing factors, and fighting against critical thoughts, she is able to recognize, rationalize, and battle against her psychological struggles. One of the strengths of Dolhanty and Greenberg’s case study is its inclusion of highly detailed descriptions; participant reactions, sounds and facial expressions which are noted qualitatively. Similarly Scott et al. (2013)’s patient, Victoria also reveals

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Anorexia Nervosa

What is Anorexia Nervosa?

Anorexia Nervosa is a psychological illness with devastating physical consequences. Anorexia Nervosa is characterised by low body weight and body image distortion with an obsessive fear of gaining weight which manifests itself through depriving the body of food. It often coincides with increased levels of exercise. There are two main sub-types of anorexia:

Restricting type:  this is the most commonly known type of Anorexia Nervosa whereby a person severely restricts their food intake.  Restriction may take many forms (e.g. maintaining very low calorie count; restricting types of food eaten; eating only one meal a day) and may follow obsessive and rigid rules (e.g. only eating food of one colour).

Binge-eating or purging type:  less recognised; a person restricts their intake as above, but also during some bouts of restriction the person has regularly engaged in binge-eating OR purging behaviour (e.g. self induced vomiting, over-exercise, misuse of laxatives, diuretics or enemas).

Who gets Anorexia Nervosa?

Anorexia Nervosa usually develops during adolescence and generally has an earlier age of onset than Bulimia Nervosa and Binge Eating Disorder (the latter are often developed during late adolescence or early adulthood). However like all eating disorders, anorexia can develop at any age or stage of life for both males and females. It is a myth that only adolescent girls experience anorexia. 

There is no single cause of anorexia but there are risk factors that increase the likelihood of anorexia developing. These can be cultural, biological or psychological.

Read more:

  • General risk factors
  • Dieting
  • Body image
  • Self-esteem
  • Perfectionism

Warning Signs of Anorexia Nervosa

  • Preoccupation with body shape, weight and/or appearance
  • Intense fear of gaining weight
  • Preoccupation with food or food related activities
  • Negative or distorted body image; perceiving self to be fat when at a healthy weight/underweight
  • Low self-esteem (guilt, self-criticism, worthlessness)
  • Rigid thinking (‘black and white’, ‘good and bad’ foods)
  • Feeling out of control
  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Heightened anxiety around meal times
  • Heightened sensitivity to comments or criticism about body shape/weight/appearance/eating/exercise habits
  • Suicidal or self-harm thoughts or behaviours
  • Constant or repetitive dieting/restrictive or rigid eating patterns
  • Excessive or compulsive exercise 
  • Changes in clothing style
  • Impaired school or work performance
  • Obsessive rituals around food 
  • Changes in food preferences
  • Frequent avoidance of eating meals / excuses not to eat
  • Social withdrawal / avoidance of social situations involving food
  • Repetitive or obsessive body-checking behaviours
  • Deceptive or secretive behaviour around food

Physical Signs and Effects of Anorexia Nervosa

The physical effects of anorexia

Recovery and Treatment

Anorexia is the most fatal of all psychiatric illnesses. Extreme food restriction can lead to starvation, malnutrition and a dangerously low body weight – all of which are synonymous with a host of health problems. Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder.

However, complete recovery from anorexia is possible; early treatment leads to the greatest success. If you are worried about yourself or someone you know, contact your GP or EDV on 1300 550 235 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Resources:

Anorexia fact sheet (NEDC)

Books about anorexia

Books about eating disorder recovery


Last revision date: Wednesday, 09 August 2017 14:22

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