The really scary part about the modern escalation in eating disorders is that not only do the victims of this malady, together with their immediate families, but also the medical fraternity, still alarmingly tend to misunderstand, but also grossly underestimate the pernicious and pervading impact of this potentially deadly condition.
Margaret (not her real name) is a highly emotional, mixed up 13 year old. Even at this very young age, she is already stricken with serious depression, being terrified about the possibility of not getting good reports from her school, and highly anxious and confused about her relationship with her parents. To compound the problem she seems to be cursed with an eating disorder called anorexia nervosa.
The desperate parents plaintive plea would strike a chord in in the heart of any parent who cares about the welfare of their offspring, when they said: “We are desperately searching for any body who can advise us on how to deal with our daughter......somebody knowledgeable, armed with the ability to provide guidance, ideas, or even just a few words of encouragement.”
This true story, sadly, is no longer just an isolated case, and the really scary part about the modern escalation in eating disorders is that not only do the victims of this malady, together with their immediate families, but also the medical fraternity, still alarmingly tend to misunderstand, but also grossly underestimate the pernicious and pervading impact of this potentially deadly condition.
This being the case, what common key can be reined in to help with its early identification, analysis, and then effective long term treatment? Could the power of the expert analysis of the victim's handwriting be employed? Although attractive, the problem with this approach, is that the victim's case could already be too far advanced for action to be effective.
What IS true though, is that the handwriting of a person afflicted with anorexia (or bulimia) is, in parallel with their aberrant behavior, a virtual visible string of contradictions: If we were to examine a typical sample of the handwriting of the classic case of anorexia, we would be presented with what is aptly named “good girl” script – in that it is very rounded, and obviously over-controlled. This is often accompanied by a somewhat “jumpy” baseline movement and a disintegration of the way in which the individual letters themselves are formed.
It must be stressed, however, that if one sees what one perceives as fitting the foregoing description, it must not automatically be concluded that the person concerned is suffering from an eating disorder. There are MANY other factors and indicators to be taken into account, and the analysis must be left to an expert.
The behavior of the person blighted with anorexia tends to play out in real life as follows:
The sufferer begins to lose weight, and then resolves, on their own to: “Become a better person, by being strong and self-sufficient, admired by others – and even superior to them.”
The counter this mental resolution though, is that this self-same “strength” now rebounds as rigidity; self-sufficiency deteriorates into self-isolation; and the intense need to be admired clicks over into being overly flamboyant – even pretentious.
The victim's self-image of perceived superiority is rooted in misplaced zeal, and then pushing the boundaries of pretentiousness and ostentation. With the passage of time, the already over-controlled handwriting now moves on to becoming distorted – and this now reflects a person who is becoming more and more self-absorbed – a carefully contrived strategy for blocking any healthy relationships.
It is very important to emphasize that, although there are, as yet, no scientifically proven links of the existence of anorexia or bulimia in handwriting. But, sterling pioneering work done by Professor Peter Beumont (Small handwriting in some patients with anorexia nervosa Beumont, P. - British Journal of Psychiatry, 119, 349-350, 197) tends to lend credence to the approach. It must be emphasized that the observer must ALWAYS look further than the the initial indicators in the writing sample to comprehensively understand the real impact of an eating disorder on the sufferer.
Less experienced analysts my fall into the trap of concluding that the handwriting sample is pleasant looking, and a readable script – showing perhaps just a normal level of internal conflict any young person going through a hormonal change will be experiencing, and even perhaps pointing to mild depression.
Here is the crunch though: The subtleties of letter distortion in the script, coupled with the victim's covering up of their neurotic behavior, can very easily be missed if the writing is not diligently studied.
Moreover, for the handwriting analyst it is critical that each and every indicator in the handwriting sample must be strictly evaluated in the context of the TOTAL script available – and then progressively, with subsequent samples, with the passage of time, coupled with the escalation of the severity of the disorder in the sufferer.
The Personality Traits Associated with a range of Eating Disorders:
This term describes a relatively recent phenomenon of an aberrant eating disorder now being exhibited primarily in older women: Obsessed with her weight, she will meticulously calculate each and every calorie consumed, and then plot a demanding exercise routine that SPECIFIC amount of calories within the upcoming 12 hour period. Some women exhibiting this behavior will actually set their alarm to go off at 5 am, and then go on a running regimen to immediately “burn off” what they ate the night before!
- Diminished sense of self-worth
- Camouflaged sense of resentment, replaced by over-pleasing behavior
- Excessive fatigue
- Anti-social behavior, strong inhibitions
- Highly self-critical, coupled with strong inhibitions
- Actually craves approval, but tends to block feelings from public scrutiny
- A muted comprehension that there IS a problem, and therefore this sort of person is more likely to seek help
- Highly perfectionistic
- Self-sacrificing – in fact leans toward the satisfaction of the needs of others
- Low self-esteem
- Camouflages food eating patterns
- Absolute denial of feeling hunger pangs, or aberrant behavior.
- Blocks ANY attempts at outside intervention
- Convoluted approach to dealing with personal issues
The Emergence and Development of Eating Disorders
In the early 1980's very little was known about “A and B” (Anorexia & Bulimia). Rather naively at the time, it was erroneously speculated that it was confined to teenage girls, and easy to deal with, and this meant it was effectively ignored.
Almost 30 years later, society has become much more cognizant of the wide swathe of destruction being cut through all levels of humanity: Young, older, male, female – showing no discrimination across the board.
What is especially perplexing is the occurrence of the malady across the age & gender spectrum, ranging from as young as 6 years old to older adults – who can all be afflicted with a diverse range of eating disorders.
This is borne out by recent stark statistics: Bordering on 60 million Americans are afflicted with one or the other of a variety of eating disorders! Pubescent girls are more terrified of becoming fat than of cancer, or the demise of a close family member. Another surprising finding is that those folk who go on a diet are EIGHT TIMES more likely to develop an eating disorder.
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