September 24, 1975 · Cavalier Daily

Self-Starvation on the Rise

An article discussing the rise of anorexia nervosa in educated, middle-class adolescent girls, including symptoms and a case study.


Cavalier Daily Sept 24, 1975 - Self-Starvation on the Rise.pdf
Cavalier Daily Sept 24, 1975 - Self-Starvation on the Rise2.pdf
Vicki Stackig
Cavalier Daily
Cavalier Daily
Cavalier Daily
Self-Starvation on the Rise
Every year thousands of high school and college age women willfully starve themselves to the point of death. There is a medical name for this behavior: anorexia nervosa. Once thought to be an extremely rare disease, anorexia nervosa - extreme and unrealistic dieting – appears to be increasing rapidly in both the US. and Great Britain.
Nine tenths of the time anorexia strikes attractive teen age girls. They are usually industrious, athletic and friendly, and come from affluent and well educated families. The illness is virtually nonexistent among the poor and rarely in boys or older people.
Fashions today create a climate favorable to the disease.. There are tremendous pressures in society to be thin," said student health psychiatrist David Hammond. T.V., fashion and newspapers between the thousands of appetizing food and restaurant advertisements dictate again and again ‘thin is beautiful'. This puts a psychological strain on those who want to stay very thin in a food oriented society.
Anorexics [sic] differ from the millions of girls who torture themselves with fad diets in that normal teenagers cannot stand to diet and make no secret about it, while the anorexic doesn’t mind at all.
Most anorexics might have been able to benefit from a little dieting when they begin. They may have been slightly overweight, “perhaps teased a little about their plumpness," Prof. of Internal Medicine-James Respess said. But the diet took over.
"Anorexics develop a disturbed body image," said Respess. “They can’t see what they look like in reality and even when terribly thin, may appear fat to themselves.”
Most anorexics become obsessed with food. They think about it a lot, talk about it a lot, and often like to and prepare food for others.
They do have an appetite, “although they will rarely admit it even to themselves," Hammond said. Often, one bite of a forbidden food sends them on an enormous eating binge in which they gorge themselves with fattening foods, only to sneak off shortly after and throw it all up.
Anorexics have remarkable energy. They will exercise endlessly, denying both exhaustion and hunger. As a result, until the final stages of the disease the are usually in good physical health except they almost always develop amenorrhea (absence of menstrual period).
The final stages are characterized by grotesque emaciation with body weight sometimes sinking below 60 pounds. The University hospital treated what may be the thinnest adult on record -48 pounds. According to Respess, most adults die when their weight drops below 45 pounds.
Although anorexics have one of the highest fatality rates of any psychiatric diagnosis (five to 15 per cent die), the disease is curable. In fact, the 48 pound patient treated here is now living a healthy normal life.
Most psychiatrists agree that the cure is twofold: first, putting on weight, getting the patient out of immediate medical danger, and then reaching the underlying emotional problems through psychotherapy. According to Respess nobody really knows just what causes anorexia or how to cure it. “It may be an emotional disorder, people using food or lack of food to manipulate the world around them,” he said.
The number of cases treated here, Student Health Director James camp pointed out, is limited because most anorexics are girls, and girls have not been at the University for very long.
To date student health has treated seven cases of the disease. But there may be hidden cases that have not come in for help, said Thomas Gates, associate director of counseling at student health.
Treatment has included conditioned reflex and behavior modification methods.
Associate director of the Clinical Research Center Ann J. Johanson, and head of Consultation services Norman J. Knorr of the University Hospital, have treated six patients with Levodopa, a drug highly successful in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease.
Many of the characteristics of patients with anorexia nervosa are similar to those of patients with Parkinsons disease they said. For this reason the two doctors considered trying Levodopa to cure anorexia.
Of the six patients, four gained weight, three of whom have maintained that weight. The two which did not gain weight did not lose it either.
According to Respess, anorexics are addicted to being thin just like an alcoholic is addicted to drinking.
Hammond said almost all people who have been overweight once in their life, always feel overweight, no matter how thin they become. Hammond said it is tese [sic] people who have a real fear of getting overweight, and although they are not anorexic now, they could become anorexic in the future.
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Date Added July 20, 2015
Date Modifed December 25, 2017
Collection Cavalier Daily: articles about gender discrimination

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