TitleStarvation as self-preservation
NameDehler, Lauren Courtney (author), Sass, Louis (chair), Skean, Karen (internal member), Rutgers University, Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology,
Eating disorders in women,
DescriptionAnorexia nervosa is a disorder that affects millions in the United States and has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, estimated at or above 10%. The majority of sufferers are female, though the number of male cases continues to increase. The current study seeks to explore and interpret the internal experiences of females with anorexia through the lens of British object-relations theories regarding schizoid phenomena. This dissertation offers a review of the current clinical and psychoanalytic literature on female anorexia, as well as current empirical findings. There is also a summary of the theories of Guntrip and Laing on schizoid mechanisms, along with a discussion of psychological aspects of modernity as discussed by Sass and Bordo. This study utilizes published memoirs of women in recovery from anorexia, and through narrative inquiry methodology explores the hypothesis that anorexia is an attempt to alleviate and resolve schizoid concerns. In the analyses, thirteen themes emerge that capture the paradoxical nature of anorexia, in which the sufferer engages in a process of destructive self-preservation. Central to these findings is a self-annihilating narcissism that describes the internal experiences of preoccupation and self-loathing within the sufferer, as well as a desire to become a person without needs and without a body. These are shown to provide a protective boundary between the internal self and the external world. In an attempt to assert a sense of self through starvation, the sufferer exists in a state between being and non-being, which often leads to serious medical complications and sometimes death. Lastly, these paradoxical themes tie into literature on the schizoid condition, which provides insight into the contradictory experiences of anorexia. The splitting that occurs in anorexia between an inner self and a body self appears to parallel the splitting within the schizoid, which protects the person against fears of annihilation, engulfment, implosion, and petrification by the other.
NoteIncludes bibliographical references
Noteby Lauren Courtney Dehler
CollectionGraduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology Electronic Theses and Dissertations
Organization NameRutgers, The State University of New Jersey
RightsThe author owns the copyright to this work.