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Anorexia Fulfills Need to Belong

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Australian researcher Dr. Megan Warin has determined that many individuals who suffer from anorexia nervosa experience a profound lack of belonging, and feel cut off from mainstream society. Anorexia appears to have provided these people with a common purpose and identity.

Many sufferers of the devastating eating disorder reported that they had experienced episodes of bullying or sexual abuse in the past. Others were coping with challenging family situations such as adoption.

Anorexia nervosa proved very seductive and empowering to this group of people who form their identity based on weight loss and extreme dieting. Dr. Warin adds that the existence of pro-anorexia websites are feeding into this sense of “community” by providing a forum for weight loss secrets.

Treatment for anorexia nervosa is especially difficult when it is perceived as a desirable lifestyle rather than an illness. Dr. Warin notes that recovery for this group of individuals involves giving up their anorexic identity and replacing it with something else.

Dr. Warin presented her research to delegates at the National Eating Disorders Collaboration in Sydney, Australia on August 24th, 2011. Her data is compiled from a series of interviews conducted with anorexia sufferers in that country. Dr. Warin plans to continue researching the effects of power and belonging on anorexics, including the impact on seeking treatment.

Photo: Ramzi Hashisho