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Anorexia Nervosa -- Approach needs teamwork.

www.thefreelibrary.com/Anorexia+nervosa--approach+needs+teamwork.-a0158959534

Author: Geers, Monica Publication:Subconsciously Speaking  Date: May 1, 2006  Words: 1718

Anorexia Nervosa is one of the two common eating disorders of adolescence, the other is bulimia nervosa. Anorexia is a life threatening behavioral process in which the individual holds a false image of self as being too big, no matter how small. The majority of anorexics are female. Self imposed dietary restrictions, which are sometimes augmented with intense workouts, can result in slow death through starvation or sudden death through heart attack due to electrolyte imbalances resulting from lack of proper nutrition. Taken to its extreme, anorexics look like death camp inhabitants when they die. Medical supervision is critical as there is a real threat of death. Hospitalization and force feeding only treat the symptoms, comprehensive care requires interdisciplinary teamwork.

Physically, this "disease" of adolescence occurs as everything is getting bigger. The individual is actively transiting the changes of puberty and sexual organs are growing to their adult proportions. Psychosexually, the child is leaving a latent stage and entering the adult world of sexuality. Growing adult appetites and desires create changes in the individual, and in the family relations. Ideally, parents and children adapt and accommodate through mutual respect, but a maturing young woman may get the message that she is "taking up too much room" when she asks for what she wants and needs, particularly if those longings are in contrast to the value systems of her family. A young person may find that the morals and values of her family do not support her unique expression of self, while external messages of what it means to be young, cool, and beautiful also urge her to be something different from what she innately is. The inability to discern what is realistic from the impossible or unhealthy results in confusion, even self hatred. In an environment that fails to support the full development of a grown woman, anorexics can prevent or reverse the development of hips and breasts, and even stop the menstrual cycle. It may be that the only thing over which an anorexic an•o•rex•ic feels she has any sense of control is her capacity to shut down her appetites.

Psychosocially, anorexia appears to emerge at the time of identity formation. Clashes in values between generations and cultures emerge as the child passes through the questions of identity, "Who am I? What do I want to do with my life? What is expected of me by my family, my friends, my culture?" An intelligent young woman has noticed that she can be what ever she wants, a blonde, redhead, or brunette, but her chances of becoming the president of the United States are less than that of her male peers. A woman is rarely going to earn as much as her male peers, and will be disproportionately responsible for the family, child, elder and sick care without pay. A patriarchal woman is often more valued for her looks and reproductive capacity than for her other creative, unique abilities. In Marilyn Monroe's world, beauty meant weighing between 145 and 165 pounds and wearing between a size 12 and 16. Today, the average model wears a size 4 or smaller. The internalization of an impossible beauty standard feeds beauty industry profits, while promoting a no win situation for the target of beauty consumers who cannot live up to impossible or unrealistic externally imposed ideals. Be aware that anorexia demonstrates an individual's tremendous capacity for self discipline and deferred gratification, qualities and values used by all successful people to achieve their goals. These capacities can be reframed and harnessed to serve the individual in more healthful ways.

There are many mixed messages young women are exposed to growing up in consumer society with a patriarchal bias. When a woman asks for what she really wants, that can be really big. A girl may be struggling with fear of adult responsibilities, and seek to reject her emerging sexuality. Mass media urges young women to spend money, but the modern beauty standard requires the average girl to deny herself basic sustenance. The average, healthy adolescent cannot meet the unrealistic beauty myth of modern Western culture without severely restricting her diet, use of laxatives, and the binging/purging cycle known as bulimia nervosa. Be sure to ask about your client's dental health, the purging of bulimia can destroy tooth enamel.  Continue to Page 2


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