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Gabriela Serna
Professor Sotirakopulos
English 1102
October 12, 2016
The Deeper Origin of Anorexia in Women
Addiction, the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is
psychologically or physically habit-forming. Most people would compare addiction to the eating
disorder Anorexia Nervosa, however there is a deeper origin to anorexia; one that cause the girl
to develop a sick passion to the eating disorder. Using the text, The Thin Woman, and the article
Anorexia is contagious and I wanted to catch it I will unfold the true reason why women find a
sickening passion to anorexia. Using academic journals such as A Case of Dysmorphophobia
Following Recovery from Anorexia Nervosa and lectures by students from Oxford University
and the University of Chicago I will compare how anorexia and perfectionism are partners in
crime. Finally, I will use information based on my own personal experience to give an insight on
the mind set of an anorexic and why someone would turn to anorexia. I hope to reveal the true
empathetic origin of anorexia and why so many women are enamored with Anorexia Nervosa.
Anorexia is viewed as an unproblematic clinical entity. References to Barbie dolls and
unrealistic beauty standards in society are quickly categorized to the mainstream word
Anorexia and nothing else. Critical social psychologist Helen Malson overtook a series of
interviews with women diagnosed as anorexic and discovered that Anorexia had little to do with
body image issues. Anorexia was about not having feelings for most of the patients interviewed
by Malson. When asked what she thinks women are trying to do through anorexia, patient Elaine

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responds with, theyd be isolating themselves. Menstruation makes women feel emotional and
most of it is out of their control. By stopping their periods, they would stop their crazy mood
swings; theyd be avoiding their emotions and ultimately becoming numb. Anorexia is construed
as a refusal of this specific version of woman rather than femininity. Malson found that all the
patients she talked with did not like the idea of not being in control. Patient Teresa tells Malson
that Anorexia for her was about not being vulnerable anymore, vulnerability is just the one thing
I couldnt afford. Menstruation is associated here with emotionality, vulnerability, and lack of
control. Anorexics not only like the idea of being numb but also the feeling of being in control
that comes with anorexia: Nicki: There are a lot of characteristics that I admire like being slim
[] its the kind of idea of being in control of your life and doing all your work and sticking to
deadlines and, you know, being competent/ sort of perfection, yeah the perfection ideal. The
patient continues to tell how Malson that Anorexia gave her the opportunity to control something
in her life. She use to feel that her life was out of her control, she would have so much work to
do and fast approaching deadlines. Being thin is constructed as part of the perfection ideal of
being in control. Losing weight and restricting what you eat gives many anorexics something to
control. The thin body signifies far more than weight control alone. It signifies being in control
of your life. Those with anorexia believe that a controlled body means a controlled life. They
dont do this for beauty but for self-control. They search for perfectionism all around.
Anorexia and perfectionism are partners in crime. The eating disorders and perfectionism
literature has consistently shown that people with AN (Anorexia Nervosa) report higher
perfectionism levels compared to healthy controls. A literature review conducted by Clinical
psychologist Bardone-Cone in nine studies compared perfectionism levels between AN
populations and healthy controls. Eight of those nine studies found significantly higher

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perfectionism levels for participants with AN compared to controls when using the Eating
Disorder Inventory-Perfectionism scale. In another study comparing AN with OCD, depression,
and a healthy group, AN wins again receiving the highest perfectionism levels. 40% of those
with Body Dysmorphic Disorder will also have Anorexia (Leston). Similar to OCD, Body
Dysmorphic Disorder is not only the obsession with perfection but the obsessive focus on ones
flaws. A 24-year old woman with preexisting Anorexia nervous was interviewed by Psychologist
Pantano to further compare the relationship between BDD and AN. Although the woman was not
obsessing over her weight anymore she found other flaws to obsess over. Even after her
remission from Anorexia she continued to exemplify symptoms of BDD. She told Pantano that
she thought her nose was too long and was determined to fix it despite her loved one telling her
there was no need. The woman also showed signs of isolation; she found it quite unbearable
when a person looked at her. BDD, the obsession with flaws and perfectionism, is a symptom of
Anorexia Nervosa. Elisabeth Huh, a student at the University of Chicago, tells her history with
anorexia and how it originated from her obsession with her flaws in a lecture with TedTalk. She
would spend nights ruminating over every mistake and flaws. Her Anorexia began when one
night she skipped dinner over a low test score; it felt good to punish myself for my flaws. With
Anorexia she had something to blame, her fat, and something to work for, to lose weight.
Something she was in control of and something she was good at. Fat for her was associated with
laziness and being a slob, while skinny meant hard work and virtue. For Elisabeth, and like most
anorexics, obsession with ones flaws and the desire for control and perfection (BDD) are key
causes of Anorexia.
My origins with anorexia are similar to those of the studies previously evaluated. I didnt
like myself; every time I looked in the mirror I saw failure. Like Elisabeth, I saw my fat as not

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my only flaw but all my flaws. I associated my fat with low test scores, the fact that I am terrible
at logarithmic mathematics, or that one time I stuttered while reading in front of all the class. I
have always been moderately obsessed with perfection. I managed to maintain a 4.0 unweighted
GPA, participation in sports, and secretary of my class. I was determined to fix this flaw and so I
did my research. I found out exactly how many calories I needed to eat a day in order for my
body not to go into starvation mode and what exercise was best to lose fat and not gain muscle
weight. None of this was because of a number on a scale; I hadnt even stepped on a scale
throughout this period. The day I learned that how much I weighed is the day the doctors labeled
me as pre-anorexic. I remember so clearly how my doctors threatened to send me to therapy if
I didnt stop losing the weight. I was shocked, I mean I knew what anorexia was, or at least I
thought I did, and I was certain I was not anorexic. Movies and TV taught me that anorexics
were delusional bone skinny girls who wanted to fit societies standards. I nearly laughed at the
situation I was in at my doctors office. They made me feel like a crazy person but I knew that
my intentions were not to hurt myself and much less to look like a model. I wanted to assure the
doctor that I wasnt anorexic; that I knew what kind of girls they were talking about and that was
not me. I wanted to accomplish something for myself. I wanted to wear my bones like trophies of
self-control, accomplishment, and dedication. But what I didnt realize is that I had been
brainwashed with societies false definition of Anorexia Nervosa. I didnt know I was following
the steps of Anorexia because I did know what Anorexia really was.
Anorexia, much like the Body Dysmorphic Disorder, is originated by obsessive thoughts
of perfectionism and it stratifies its victim by making them feel emotionally numb. This
numbness is what enamors anorexics to continue the practice; they become infatuated with the
idea of accomplishing something. My obsessions with losing weight and restricting my diet was

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not a sick obsession it was a passion for feeling accomplished. Anorexia Nervosa is not about
being a Skelton is about being in control.

Works Cited

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Huh, Elisabeth. Starving for the Good: An Anorexics Search for Meaning & Perfection. Ted.
June. 2016. Lecture.
Leston, Meredith. Believing is Seeing: a New Perspective on Body Dysmorphia. Ted. Apr.
2016. Lecture.
Malson, Helen. The thin woman: Feminism, Post-structuralism and the Social Psychology of
Anorexia Nervosa. Routledge,1998.
Osgood, Kelsey. Anorexia Is Contagious, and I Wanted to Catch It. Time. 2013.
ideas.time.com/2013/11/15/anorexia-is-contagious-and-i-wanted-to-catch-it. Accessed 1
October 2016.
Pantano, Michela and Santonastaso, Paolo. A Case of Dysmorphophobia Following Recovery
from Anorexia Nervosa. International Journal of Eating Disorders. Vol. 8 Issue 6,
Nov1989, p701-704. Ebsco Host.