Do we really need more research on anorexia nervosa?

Anorexia is an eating disorder which involves starvation and sometimes rigorous exercise. For the sufferer, life revolves around an obsession with thinness.

For the anorexic, to be thin means to be successful and any attempts to thwart her obsessive behaviour are seen as threats to her well-being.

At the root of anorexia, as with all compulsive or obsessive behaviour, lies low self-esteem and deep depression. Anorexia is a symptom of these. Not everyone who is depressed or has low self - esteem develops an eating disorder.But everyone who develops one certainly suffers from these.

A great deal of time and money has been spent on research on anorexia nervosa. Yet anorexia in teenage girls, women and increasingly men, continues to rise.

As a recovered anorexic I know that it is the underlying problems that cause a person to develop an eating disorder that need treatment.

If there is any hope of eliminating anorexia and other eating disorders from our society, we need to start relying on our intuition and common sense and to face what amounts not only to a growing number of sufferers of eating disorders but also an alarming increase in those suffering from all depression related problems.

There is a lot of blame surrounding anorexia and other eating disorders.

There are two very sensitive issues involved. The first is that 'mental illness' carries enormous stigma. The fact that research on anorexia nervosa continues to assert that eating disorders are psychiatric illnesses means that they, too, carry a stigma.

The second is that for those cases involving children and teenagers, parents are highly sensitive to any criticism of their parenting skills.

Regarding the first issue. My background is in psychology, philosophy and social anthropology. I like to question and I'm uncomfortable with the idea of statics such as 'mental illness.'

It is my belief that there is no such thing. There are simply healthy and unhealthy ways of thinking.Having recovered from anorexia, I don't look back on the days when I was mentally ill. I look back on the days when I was unhappy and mixed up.Research on anorexia nervosa may refute that, but I know that I am the best judge of my sanity.

The second issue of parenting is difficult, but not insurmountable. As a parent, I am fully aware of how the slightest criticism can be painful. I am far more aware, however, of my need to continually grow as a person in order to be the best parent I can be.

I have made many mistakes and I will continue to do so. But if I can honestly put my hand on my heart and say that I am able to put my son first, and give him the love and integrity he deserves, then I can put those mistakes behind me and continue to grow.

We are in an age of enlightenment. Gone are the days when we can be content with the superficial. The human race has taken huge leaps and bounds in terms of our consciousness and our awareness of where it can take us.

If we are to help those suffering from anorexia - whether they are our children, our partners, our students, or our friends, we must stop looking for who is to blame.

We must stop being scared and understand that eating disorders are simply about low self esteem and that the remedy is available to us all, as parents, as families, as educators and as friends.

Low self esteem and depression are endemic in western society, and are rapidly rising. Yet more than ever we have access to ways to build self esteem in ourselves and our children. If we are to truly prevent anorexia in teenage girls, and all forms of depression in our children and our society, we must access those ways.

We must stop worrying about what people think and about where we may have gone wrong, and use our energy and our resources to move forward.

We, in the western world need to learn to value ourselves and our emotional health. To take seriously the concept of self-esteem as the pivot around which everything turns.

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