There are a lot of misconceptions about anorexia nervosa that should be addressed. I’m not saying "corrected" because I’m layperson and can only offer opinions and observations culled from living with a person with post-eating disorder anorexia.
Anorexia has long been identified with body image. A woman feels inadequate because of how she looks compared to the images presented in the media. To be accepted she must somehow assume the shape or size of those she sees presented as the ideal.
The presumption is that, from this motivation alone, the person will begin starving herself. But this leaves too many holes and doesn’t cover all circumstances. Yes, body image and media examples play a role in encouraging starvation, but something else has got to come into play to cause a person to loathe themselves to such an extent.
This theory does nothing to explain why some people stop eating as young as five. In other words they are almost born anorexic. Controversial, but successful, practitioner Peggy Claude St. Pierre, who works with anorexics in Victoria B.C. Canada, was the first person to reveal that there was more at work then simple body image. In one interview she was accompanied by a five year old boy who had stopped eating.
With his limited communication skills, it was hard to decipher what had caused the ailment but it eventually became clear that he was suffering from a surfeit of guilt. From what little he said, those treating him understood that he could not bring himself to eat while he knew that others were going without. What made him better that he should deserve to eat when someone else wasn’t able?
The full story of that young boy was never revealed, except to say he was recovered. What had destroyed his self esteem to that point of degradation wasn’t said. Perhaps he was being sexually abused or ignored by his parents. Or it could just have been as simple a case as he claimed. As young people, we have not yet built up shields to defend us from the horrors of the world and sensitivity to another’s plight could become over exaggerated in the mind of one so young.
As a teenager the woman I love was starving herself to death; she had stopped menstruating, her heart rate was stopping, the full deal. She had the strength to pull herself out of that hole and carry on. But there has been more to her recovery then simply to begin eating.
We were both getting on in years when we got together (at least by today’s standards), thirty–five, so we had already ruled out the prospect of children and decided on a life for the two of us. Neither of us had what could be called easy lives up to that time and we looked on each other as safe havens in what had been stormy waters. This is what precipitated the events that followed, events that have led the two of us to understand how a so-called eating disorder is far more then that.