Giving a voice to young people with anorexia

Giving a voice to young people with anorexia

By Lauren Clancy, Psychology BSc Student

“Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels”, a flippant comment made by an admired super model many years ago. However, for many young people, this is still a mantra in a world that glamourises and romanticises eating disorders. In reality, anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate among adolescent psychiatric disorders1, and with 1 in 100 young people aged 10-20 suffering with anorexia every year2, it poses a prevalent threat to developing bodies and minds. Like any illness, mental and physical, early intervention is vital3, but how do professionals differentiate between ‘normal’ body issues and a distortive illness in a world full of body shaming and diet fads? Something made more difficult by the beauty industry, which depends on young girls in particular feeling insecure and imperfect. Are professionals doing enough?

With many individuals being turned away when they ask for help because they do not seem ‘ill enough’, a message is conveyed that the more weight you lose, the more support you can access. A message that often causes eating disorders to worsen. Dismissing these concerns can heighten feelings of guilt and unworthiness by the people experiencing them. This is particularly harmful when considering the ego-syntonic nature of anorexia, which makes asking for help all the more challenging due to the certain level of pride it creates around the extreme appearance and ability to maintain it. Coupled with failings surrounding mistaken attitudes, stereotyping, communication and treatment, young people with eating disorders are not getting the support they need.

For this reason, my research project will investigate whether or not guidelines4 are being followed when treating anorexia nervosa in young people. In academic literature, the general consensus is that a lot more work needs to be done. My project will focus on physical and psychological treatment, therapeutic alliance, early intervention and the importance of specialists, and communication. In doing so, I hope my research will give a voice to young people, and enable them to tell their side of the story. Hearing what they think and how they feel about the treatment they received will hopefully contribute to the improvement of child and adolescent mental health services and their care of the young people who desperately need them.


You can find Lauren’s Study here.


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