Anorexia Activism- tilting at windmills

Anorexia Activism, is it shooting in the right direction?

A former sufferer 20 years duration, has an article in the Guardian pressing for more investment in anorexia treatment. In theory why not. She has seen people die (of course, they do) and attributes her recovery to her psychiatrist, Dr Ayton, whose writings inform our own work with people who have anorexia.

I pointed out that we are already investing £millions on research into anorexia. In addition, we healers read the textbooks written by people like Dr Ayton and all the research worldwide. We go to conferences and we call upon our lived clinical experience with sufferers and their families.

It is not enough. People still recover, even after years, they will continue to recover and some will die, no matter how much money we invest. As one of my colleagues pointed out, more motorways don’t reduce the traffic. The problem with anorexia is partly clients themselves, fearing recovery and resisting treatment, often attacking the therapist, verbally or, physically. We understand that this is a symptom of the illness but we are just human, we have to be so lovingly strong and patient.

One of the followers of Lorna Collins was angered when I pointed out that money IS spent, people ARE being trained, books ARE being written to help the healers, and there ARE enough awareness campaigns.  She was scathing when I mentioned textbooks and suggested that I was being rude about recovered people. But who writes these books?  The writers of textbooks are people who want to share their knowledge and wisdom about the disease.

We know why people get better. Sometimes it burns itself out, sometimes people decide they don’t want the monkey on their back anymore, sometimes they fall in love and want to get better. And so on. The textbooks AND our experience tell us lots of reasons why people recover and we have more than enough anorexi-ographies to boost our understanding.

The outcomes for specific therapies like CBT-E, FBT, DBT or Mantra still are worse than we would like. People slip through the net. This is not attacking hope, its the truth. Hope is that people recover sometimes after many years each in their own way.

If Ms Collins recovered because of the work of a particular psychiatrist, then she knows at least why SHE got better. It was a specific therapist, not a treatment protocol. How do we bottle the personality of a specific psychotherapist?  And will it work for everyone?

When people recover from anorexia, many become activists. Activism can, at times, turn to aggression when the activist is not willing to listen to other points of view. Agitating for more “investment” in anorexia is not going to achieve much (where is it to be spent?)  and will leach resources from other mental health problems. Anorexia is a very particular mental problem, which has existed for centuries. It is foremost a disease that reflects the struggles of being human.