Anorexia nervosa: the advice of the specialist doctor

Interview with Dr. Christine Foulon, psychiatrist.

Can we talk about an anorexic profile or an anorexic family?

No. I do not like talking about an anorexic profile. I assure you that there are as many anorexies as anorexics. It is true that there are traits of common or frequent characters. It is true that it is often girls who have experienced trauma in childhood ... but not necessarily. It is also true that it is often girls who are in families in conflict ... but not necessarily. What is true is that they are often intelligent girls, hardworking, too hard working, rather a little manipulative and sometimes narcissistic. But I've seen anorexics every day for years, and I can tell you that each has its own story, experience, and experience, and that there are no two similar stories.

Parents are often helpless to tackle this problem ...

It's very, very difficult. We need to talk. But talking is difficult. Where there is an anorexic girl, there is a lot of anxiety. Everyone is anxious: the teenager to start but also parents, relatives and doctors. And the anxiety is all the stronger, because precisely, it is difficult to approach the question. Because it's a psychological problem, because the patient stays very long in denial and also because it's scary.

What advice could you give to parents?

What I could say to parents is first to watch as much as possible about their child's diet. To be vigilant to detect as soon as possible of the disordered food behaviors and to help themselves. It is very important that the whole family become aware of each other's roles. It is also very important not to make the girl feel guilty, who, by nature, already feels guilty of all the problems of her family. The best is to consider not a treatment but treatments: nutritional at first with the help of a nutritionist, or a general practitioner then behavioral, psychotherapic, and a family therapy.

Is anorexia a Western pathology related to fashion, magazines, etc.? ?

It is true that fashion phenomena are important and can cause pathologies of this type but it is often a pretext. It is true that a girl to whom the dance teacher reminds all the time that she is too big and that she will never be a dancer if she does not lose weight, that counts. It is true that a girl who is considering becoming a model, will be under pressure from the outside. But not all models, all dancers or gymnasts are anorexic. This is a psychological disorder. And, indeed, we find anorexic in all cultures and in all countries.

Can we cure anorexia?

Yes. Of course ! But it is a long road strewn with pitfalls. The sooner anorexia is detected, the better. It should be known that when the disease has become chronic, everything becomes more difficult. But fortunately, a good part of the patients are doing well: about a third. They are young women who find a normal sex life, normal rules, and who can have children normally provided that their weight is sufficient.

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