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Michelle Gottlieb Psy.D., MFT, LPCC
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Anorexia

February 2008

Someone very special to me is struggling with a very difficult disease. It is insidious and deadly. It can strike any family. It is the disease of anorexia. The typical anorexic is a teenage girl. Anorexia is when, for a variety of reasons, a girl thinks she is fat and begins different methods to lose the weight. Unfortunately, these teen girls have no reality to their body size. They continue to lose weight long past any reasonable, or even unreasonable, view of a thin body. My friend is 5’5″ and weighs 86 pounds. I want to cry when I see her.

Approximately, 5% of our teen girls are anorexic and the number is rising. In this culture, even more so living in Southern California, we have a false idea of beauty. But anorexia is only minimally about losing weight. It is about gaining control. With this illness, these young women feel as though they have no control in their lives. So, they take ultimate control: they control what goes into their bodies. You cannot force food into someone’s mouth. If your teen closes her mouth, no food is going in. As I said earlier, this is a deadly disease. Up to 20% of women who do not receive treatment die from this disease. Karen Carpenter died from it, as well as many runway models.

This disease can be treated. Often in-patient treatment is required. It is expensive and emotionally draining for the whole family. In fact, the whole family needs treatment in order for the anorexic to get better.

If your daughter is losing weight, be careful. Watch her. Make sure that she is doing so in healthy manner. Make sure that she is eating enough calories, that she is not obsessively exercising, that she is not vomiting or using laxatives. Get them treatment from an expert in the field.

Finally, I am sending my love to this very special girl. I believe in you and believe that you can beat this disease. Be well.

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