Anorexia Anecdote (7)

The second part of Antoaneta’s treatment for anorexia focused on unexpressed outrage about her sexual abuse in childhood.  To survive the abuse, many children find a place to lock emotions away.  By the time they become adults, their ability to experience those feelings is limited.  As their self-esteem recovers during the adult years, recognition of how wrongly they were treated grows and pressure to express the associated emotions becomes compelling.  Lacking facility in verbalizing those feelings, many of my patients (including Antoaneta a few years earlier) express them somatically (which means via the body) which results in physical symptoms.  In others, such as Antoaneta during the time of her anorexia, the emotional pressure causes a sense of chaos for which tight control over eating and weight provides some relief.  The common source of both the physical symptoms and the anorexia lies in the unexpressed outrage at maltreatment in childhood.  This is why treatment methods developed to relieve physical symptoms also succeeded in relieving Antoaneta’s anorexia.  The key is to help the patient learn to express the emotions verbally.  More in the next post.

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