Using Literature to Help Troubled Teenagers Cope with Family Issues

By Joan F. Kaywell | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 8
Eating Disorders in Young Adults' Worlds and Their Literature: Starving and Stuffing Families

Pamela Sissi Carroll, Mae Z. Cleveland, & Elizabeth M. Myers


INTRODUCTION

Perhaps one of the most unusual issues involved in any discussion of anorexia nervosa is the reaction of families and society to its victims. Never have the victims of an emotional disorder been as maligned (perhaps with the exception of alcoholics) as those with anorexia nervosa. The anorexic's refusal to eat is an endless source of power struggles between the anorexic and her family and doctors. Her illness both angers and frightens those around her. It affords her no privacy since she wears it conspicuously on her limbs. Anorexics are often thought of as stubborn brats who could eat if they really wanted to. Frequently, they agree to play the brat role in which they are cast, so that no one can see the shame they feel over their anorexia--a life-threatening, irrational facet of their personalities ( Levenkron, 1982, p. xvii).


ORGANIZATION

In this chapter, we discuss eating disorders that affect adolescents, particularly anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. The chapter is divided into three parts. First, we present Elizabeth Myers' personal struggle with anorexia then bulimia. Her further recollections are augmented by excerpts from her sister Anne's diary, a private journal that chronicles the younger sibling's attempts to follow her sister's example by starving herself to achieve perfection. By presenting both perspectives, we hope to demonstrate the devastating effects that the sisters' concurrent eating disorders had

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