Eating disorders are complex problems made up of both genetic and environmental factors. Most of these patients have a faulty body image. According to Scientific American, a faulty body image is “an individual’s internal picture of his or her exterior form.” This is based not on physical appearance, but rather it is part of the person’s self esteem. Cultural ideals can affect a person’s emotions so much that their self esteem is lowered and they begin seeing things that are not really there.
Most treatments for eating disorders have several different factors including nutritional, medical, psychiatric, and psychotherapeutic interventions. However, Dr. Vocks’ program involves correcting the patient’s body image as the first step to recovery.
People suffering from eating disorders were asked to manipulate pictures of themselves on a computer until they recognized their body. These strongly overestimated their actually size while healthy people believed they were smaller than they actually were.
Vocks believes that “the sensory organs of people with eating disorders correctly register their form, but negative thoughts filter the input,” according to Scientific American. These people remember being teased about their body as a child or tell themselves they will never look like a model and this causes their distorted thinking.
Insecure people are more likely to develop eating disorders because they are so concerned with how other people view them. Their distorted body view causes self-image to suffer. This cycle can start in childhood if the child does not feel safe and accepted and turns to food as a substitute.
Children that turn into adults with eating disorders are often raised in families with similar traits. Their families seem to function perfectly but the children feel pressured to excel by parents high standards. As the kids try to be perfect students, they sometimes desire to have a perfect body as well and an eating disorder develops. Family therapy often helps these people to become healthy again as they realize that their body is not the cause of their problems.
Hollywood and the fashion industry are also major contributors to eating disorders. They promote thinner bodies and now most people prefer the look of underweight bodies.
Vocks’s program encourages people with eating disorders to tell the group what they see wrong with their body. The treatment seems to be working as patients often improve their eating habits and develop a better sense of their self worth. They learn that their body is beautiful to other people and that helps them want to treat it with respect.
Christian Eggers and Verena Liebers. Scientific American. Through a Glass, Darkly. http://sciam.com/article.cfm?chanID=sa017&articleID=C71BE929-E7F2-99DF-3F2D3BA1CA0FF35F&pageNumber=1&catID=9