Is the unselfishness of some anorexics self-destructive?

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Q & A: Is the unselfishness of some anorexics self-destructive?

Many clinicians encounter patients with anorexia nervosa who appear to be extremely altruistic, passionate about “doing good” for others, and acting as people-pleasers, as if they are trying to make others think highly of them. Recently, some researchers have distinguished what they call “rejection of life,” or not caring too much about living, from “death preoccupation,” i.e., contemplating or being attracted to death, in some patients with anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. The notion of “rejection of life” reflects the fact that these individuals are attuned to the needs of others and refrain from promoting their own needs or interests.

This mode of existence may relate to the fact that many of these patients feel extraordinary guilt at anything that would seem to be promoting their own self-interests, as if they have no right to exist or to want anything for themselves. It remains to be discovered just how pervasive this phenomenon is among women with eating disorders.

Reprinted with permission from Eating Disorders Recovery Today
Spring 2003 Volume 1, Number 4
©2003 Gürze Books

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