Is there a Different Way to Treat Anorexia?

Passion is a noun defined as a “strong and barely controllable emotion.” In early history, eating disorders like anorexia were seen to be illnesses of passion, and treated as such. Doctors treated anorexia by looking at the passions of the disease such as “greed, ambition, envy, jealousy” and even romantic love. Due to the strong nature of a passion, it surpasses basic emotion. Commonly anorexia is treated with a comprehensive program of therapeutic modalities, notably including cognitive behavioral therapy. CBT is an evidence based treatment method that helps patients to understand and regulate their emotions as well as behaviors.

Is there a Different Way to Treat Anorexia?

Different Ways to Treat Anorexia

Dr. Louis Charland, an American university professor, argues that anorexia should still be seen and treated as a passion. Understanding passion as uncontrollable, the powerlessness affiliated with the disease can be redirected. Eating disorders are obsessions, the doctor explains. “Everything revolves around eating, obsessing about food,” and, he says, “avoiding eating situations.”

Anorexia can be described as an enraptured relationship. Many recovering anorexia patients refer to the disease in feminine form, calling ‘her’ ‘Ana’. As much as anorexia is something patients experience relationally, the disease is personified as a demanding sort of lover. Often in the throes of love, people justify their wild behaviors “in the name of love”. The same goes for anorexia in which people fixate on the idea of being thin or feeling empty. Justifying their need to feel a certain way, or to ‘please’ their anorexic demands, patients rationalize their irrational behaviors with food and eating.

Dr. Charland believes that applying passion to anorexia can help patients feel more empowered by their ability to feel and behave passionately. Instead of focusing on their inability to regulate their emotions and behaviors, anorexic patients can learn to focus their overwhelming passion elsewhere. Dr. Charland does not deny that eating disorders are life-threatening neurobiological disorders. He does suggest that approaching the treatment of anorexia a different way could result in higher quality of life. Redirecting that passion can help patients foster new senses of identity and purpose, outside of their eating disorder recovery. For example, they may be inspired to get licensed to help others like themselves recover.

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