Abuse and Eating Disorders

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Abuse and Eating Disorders

Silverchair. (1999). “Ana’s Song”:
“And you’re my obsession.
I love you to the bones
And Ana wrecks your life,
Like an anorexic life.”

In 2011, The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services reported that one in four girls had experienced sexual abuse by the age of eighteen; this number excludes victims of psychological or physical abuse. Additionally, The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (1991) estimates that one in two hundred girls will develop anorexia nervosa and six in two hundred girls will develop bulimia nervosa by the age of eighteen. Through highlighting how American girls react to neglect, societal expectations, fear, and control, I will show how the psychological effects of being abused lead to the harsh reality of living with anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa.

Neglect

Neglect is often disregarded as a form of mental abuse; however, it instills a lack of self-esteem in the mind of the abused, which can often lead to grave psychological consequences. Many parents rush and do not set aside time to take sufficient care of their children. Mothers and fathers walk in and out of their homes, they pass and do not see; they hear and do not listen. Many parents put countless affairs before their families, neglecting to show warmth and love to their children. In consequence, they fail to notice the suffering of their offspring. Although both boys and girls deal with inadequate parents, the latter are more prone to blaming themselves for their parents’ absence and oblivion. Children may attempt to repair their familial bonds when usually there is nothing to repair except their parents’ incompetence. In an attempt to become important to their mother or father, a daughter “adopts the idea that it is not the caretaker who is inadequate but rather that her needs are inappropriate and should be denied” (Orbach, 1986). With this mind frame, the daughter suppresses her need for essentials such as food and love, until her parents are forced to recognize her struggles. At this point, it is often too late. A girl can only go so long denying herself of her needs before she starts to believe she does not deserve them. As soon as she’s convinced that she does not deserve her parents’ time and attention, she knowingly submits her body to self-destructive tendencies. Herman (1981) suggests that one form of such tendencies is an eating disorder (as cited in Schwartz, M.F. & Cohen, L. (1996). p25).

As girls develop into women physically, they are subject to an array of changes. One of these changes is known as “father hunger”. Maine describes the first stage of father hunger as a “dad’s attempt to adjust to their daughter’s emerging sexuality by altering the nature of their relationship and reducing their degree of physical proximity” (as cited in Bryant-Waugh, R., & Lask, B. (2000)). In an ideal situation, a father would display the same emotional proximity towards his daughter, while learning to reduce his level of physical contact. Sadly, some fathers cannot convey their emotions without touch and oblige themselves to withdraw from their daughters, whose newfound sexuality now renders them uncomfortable. This form of neglect is often overlooked on the principle that the father has no choice but to cut off his affection towards his daughter; however, no evidence exists showing that daughters would react negatively to the same amount of proximity displayed in pre-pubescent years. As a result of their fathers’ withdrawal, daughters feel hurt and neglected. They do not properly understand their fathers’ distance and attempt to regain paternal love by retreating to a pre-pubertal state when they remember receiving affection. Maine explains that “their subconscious hope is that by being small and asexual, their father’s attention, affection and approval will be regained” (as cited in Bryant-Waugh, R., & Lask,...
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