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The Life Works Community Blog

The Effects of Anorexia in the Family

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The effects of anorexia for the familyThe reality of this illness is that what may start as a desperate attempt to gain a sense of control over their environment, through controlling their body during a time when everything else feels unsafe and insecure. This sense of control is however only temporary and the sufferer quickly looses the choice, the starvation becomes obsessive and spirals out of control.

Anorexia Nervosa is often presented as a ‘phase’ teenage girls go through in order to get attention or to control and manipulate their parents and peers. Despite increased awareness and considerable research into the causes and the perpetuating factors of anorexia, there is often a lack of empathy and patience from both medical professionals and the general public.

The reality of this illness is that what may start as a desperate attempt to gain a sense of control over their environment, through controlling their body during a time when everything else feels unsafe and insecure. This sense of control is however only temporary and the sufferer quickly looses the choice, the starvation becomes obsessive and spirals out of control. This apparent contradiction of someone ‘deliberately’ starving themselves to death is incomprehensible to family and friends. "Why can’t they just eat, why does they want to hurt themself etc" Many of these questions become the focus of daily battles and confrontations, and imperceptibly the illness penetrates the entire family. Whilst initially only mealtimes are a struggle soon however gradual resentment, anger and desperation erode any normal family relationships.

For children growing up with a parent affected by anorexia, the risks of becoming anorexic themselves are manifold. Whilst there is increasing research into the ‘anorexic’ gene, children learn by copying the behaviours of those around them. This applies to eating habits, attitudes to food etc. and what they observe on a daily basis becomes their ‘normality. In addition, children feel guilty if they cannot make sense of what is happening around them, believing that somehow they must be to blame. Watching a parent who, in the eyes of a child prefers to die rather than eat, leaves a sense of deep rejection and abandonment. To cope with these difficult feelings, especially without help or explanation may result in a lifelong struggle with food or other addictions.

For those suffering from Anorexia, or who have a loved one suffering, ensure that they receive Anorexia treatment at the earliest possible opportunity.  Sadly, statistics have shown between 10-15% of Anorexics will die from the illness and early treatment has shown to have a huge success in breaking the behaviour driving the disorder.  So if Anorexia is present in your family, do not hesitate in contacting an Anorexia treatment centre.

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