Eating Disorders and Marital Relationships

Eating Disorders and Marital Relationships

Eating Disorders and Marital Relationships

Eating Disorders and Marital Relationships

Synopsis

Eating disorders are now recognised to no longer be only a problem for teenage girls, but older women as well. This book examines the attention that has been paid to women and their spouses' relationships in relation to eating disorders.

Excerpt

Over the past decades, eating disorders have become relatively well known both to health professionals and to the wider public. Yet in spite of this notoriety, many people have a wrong or incomplete idea of what an eating disorder actually represents. the popular view is that it stands for an ‘eating problem’, characterized either by overeating and being overweight or by restricted food consumption and emaciation, the latter usually affecting young teenage girls or women in their early adulthood. While this view certainly reflects the clinical features of some eating disorders, it also disregards their clinical complexity and diversity. the term ‘eating disorders’ is indeed a very broad one, which has reference to a variety of pathologies including obesity, binge eating, pica or self-induced vomiting. in many instances, however, it is used more restrictively to refer particularly to anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, two syndromes which have gained prominence in the psychiatric literature of the past decades (see Vandereycken and Meermann, 1987; Vanderlinden, Norré and Vandereycken, 1992; Herzog, Deter and Vandereycken, 1992).

In this book, we will consider the eating disorders in the latter, more restrictive sense. To familiarize the reader with the syndromes of anorexia and bulimia nervosa, their main clinical characteristics and diagnosis will be summarized in the first part of this chapter. Because both syndromes occur predominantly in women, we shall refer only to female patients, noting that the characteristics and treatment of these disorders in males are essentially the same (Andersen, 1990; Vandereycken and Van den Broucke, 1984).

While it is true that the majority of patients with anorexia or bulimia nervosa are teenagers, it is increasingly recognized that these disorders occur in older women as well. in point of fact, the average age of onset in the population of diagnosed eating-disordered patients seems to be gradually increasing (Garfinkel and Garner, 1982; Szmuckler, 1985). Many of these older patients live with a partner or did so previously, officially married or otherwise. Since these relationships are the focus of this book, the second part of this chapter will specifically address the incidence and clinical characteristics of the disorders as they occur in married women, as a preamble to the more in-depth analysis of the relationship characteristics and processes offered in the next chapters.

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