Anorexia or low self esteem?

anorexia or low self esteemEating Disorder Week gives us the chance to reflect upon clients, friends, and colleagues, who may suffer the challenges of eating disorders.  Today’s Guardian article (‘What all health professionals should know’ highlights the complexity of eating disorders. It also reports that this is a growing problem amongst young people. Society often blames role models who associate vanity with being skinny, rather than considering the potential root being a psychological issue.

This prompted me to think about ‘Sam’, a young teenager with anorexia. His eating disorder developed over a period of time until eventually he stopped eating. Our counselling sessions focused on his unhappiness and low self-esteem rather than his anorexia. Feeling embarrassed and ashamed, he didn’t know how to interact socially with the outside world. We focused our first few sessions on the underlying problems and his emotions; we looked at how he viewed himself and how he could change his self-esteem, and finally how he could try to change his thoughts and feelings about himself. After suggesting that he found an external activity, he volunteered for the local charity shop. Not only did he meet new people he took advantage of the opportunity to gain new skills. This wasn’t easy for Sam, but recognising that his eating disorder was a symptom enabled him to rebuild his life.