"Invaluable to clinicians, parents, teenagers, and adults who are struggling with anorexia." —Lynn E. Ponton, M.D.
Anatomy of Anorexia is a tremendous tool for families: now more than ever, early diagnosis and treatment, and family participation, are crucial in helping the anorexic. Preeminent therapist Steven Levenkron demystifies this life-threatening disease and shows how the millions of girls and women who are afflicted with anorexia can be helped—and can look forward to rich and productive lives. "The nation’s premier expert in treating anorexia has written the nation’s premier book for parents, relatives, and friends of young women afflicted with this life-threatening disease."—Joseph A. Califano Jr., president of the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University and former U.S. Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare "[Levenkron’s] insights, descriptions of family relationships, and treatment recommendations for therapists create a rich, deep, and most helpful guide for a community of people whose lives are deeply and painfully affected by this persistent illness."—Samuel C. Klagsbrun, M.D.
According to the author, a psychotherapist who has treated close to 300 anorexics and written widely in the field (Treating and Overcoming Anorexia Nervosa, etc.), this very serious mental illness, which chiefly afflicts teenage girls, has a recovery rate of only 25%-35%. Because current health care policies severely limit hospitalization for anorexia, Levenkron concentrates on the importance of detecting early symptoms. Drawing on case studies from his practice, he outlines the progressive physical and psychological stages that, if unchecked, lead inexorably to life-threatening weight loss. Reacting to a societal obsession with thinness, adolescent girls at first delight in the sense of achievement they feel after successfully dieting away a few pounds. For some, it can lead to a compulsion to lose even more weight by engaging in rigorous exercise programs and severely restricting calories. When those close to a girl express concern about her thinness, the anorexic typically responds by aggressively defending her behavior, often frightening her parents--who usually wish to avoid exacerbating the situation--into leaving her alone. The anorexic now considers her thin body a special accomplishment and resists all efforts to make her gain weight. In this clearly written and informative study, Levenkron reviews several treatment options, including individual, group and family psychotherapy, self-help groups and behavior modification, as well as medication and hospitalization when necessary, and emphasizes the importance of tailoring treatment to the complex and highly individualized needs of each anorexic. He recommends combining professional treatment with altering negative family dynamics when possible--even between divorced parents--and fostering an atmosphere of communication and trust.