Anorexia Fulfills Need to Belong

Anorexia nervosa is very difficult to treat. Patients often struggle to maintain healthy eating choices after finishing treatment and relapse easily. The danger of relapse is significant: Of all mental disorders, anorexia has the highest death rate, higher than either schizophrenia or depression. An article on discusses the research of Dr. Megan Warin, a social anthropologist at Adelaide University in Australia. Dr. Warin recently presented her findings about the possibly irresistible draw of anorexia to those who feel socially isolated at the National Eating Disorders Collaboration Workshop in Sydney. Dr. Warin believes that individuals often begin practicing the behaviors associated with anorexia in order to feel empowered and to give them a sense of belonging. In the world of dieting, they feel successful and part of a group of people who successfully control their weight. Adding to the problem is the presence of pro-anorexia websites, which give individuals with anorexia a forum to exchange stories, tips and encouragement. The sites often act as an online community, giving those with anorexia a feeling of belonging. Dr. Warin’s research indicates that there is a distinct pattern among many who have anorexia of feeling detached and isolated before developing the disorder. When they establish the practices of anorexia in their lives, they begin to feel that they have succeeded at something that most women fail at: dieting.

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