Recently the Surgeon General rightly stated that the biggest medical problem for the United States today was overweight and obesity. What is not so often talked about is the other end of the scale, that is to say Bulimia Nervosa and Anorexia Nervosa. Bulimia is a condition that mainly affects young women in the West, and western cultures in other
parts of the world such as Japan and Australia.
It is primarily a dieting disorder although, paradoxically, the main symptom is overeating. Following an episode of Bulimia, the sufferer has guilt and self-blame and a feeling of failure, and this leads to putting a finger down the throat to induce vomiting. This is then followed by the sufferer vowing never to repeat the overeating again.
Typically the young person is restricting food intake or is dieting and by the evening when she is so hungry, she eats the forbidden food. This results in feeling “I have ruined the diet now, so I might as well binge.” More commonly bulimia becomes a depressing compulsion, and not all suffers vomit after binges. Some take laxatives, appetite suppressants, diuretics or other medicines. The result is that physical and mental health suffer.
Princess Diana was a sufferer, and she was cured at a specialist clinic attached to a hospital in Chelsea in London , an area where only the very wealthy can afford to live. Ironically, bulimia is often found in teenage girls of well-to-do parents who are subjected to parental or peer pressure to mimic the look of the models and TV stars.
Anorexia is very closely related to bulimia, and sometimes anorexics will alternate between anorexia and bulimia. I treated a lady in London who was the wife of a CEO of a large and well-known corporation. She lived a life of luxury and had all she could possibly need. However, the stress of constant public exposure as the wife of a public figure drove her to bulimia. She felt pressured to always look slim and attractive, and became depressed which led to low self esteem which led to binging, then vomiting, thereby giving her lower self esteem that led to further depression that led to binging and vomiting, etc. The whole circle then goes round again.
The causes are immensely complex. There may be a physical cause, as it is known that some chemicals found in the brain help to control eating and some anti-depressants have a helpful effect. However, the psychological causes are most important to recognize, and in my experience ‘toxic’ parenting features high on the list.
I treated a young girl of 26 who was severely anorexic and when I regressed her in the hypnotic state, her unconscious mind told me that her mother made her, from the age of 14, spend all her time riding and training for competitions. Her wealthy parents bought her one expensive pony after another and she began to hate the sport. Also a chance remark by her father that she “was looking fat on that pony at the last show” bore a devastating effect on her from that day forward. This made her determined to slim. Unfortunately she became forty pounds underweight and anorexic.
We worked on reframing the dominating and controlling mother, and eventually she was able to forgive both parents. Her self-esteem and confidence began to improve at once so that she was able to see that she was not fat, but rather needed to put on forty pounds – but slowly and in a controlled way.
Anorexia sometimes leads to some strange side effects; shoplifting is one of them. One of my clients lived a comfortable middle class life, but her anorexia had led her to the compulsion that she must store food “for a rainy day.” Everyday she spent two hours going to different shops part of a large chain of supermarkets, and stealing different products – mainly canned food. This was then stored in her basement. She had been caught twice by the store detective and charged, and she was told that the third charge would meet the “3-strikes you’re out” rule and she would be sent to prison. She knew that one day she would be caught again by the store detective, but she could not stop. Unfortunately the Courts don’t seem to recognize that this is a serious mental illness needing further treatment, not incarceration. I regressed her in hypnosis and the cause, in her case, was toxic parenting by her father. He was a survivor of a Nazi concentration camp and constantly harangued his children about the necessity to skimp on expenditure, especially food. “Put it aside for the rainy day.”
You can see from these case histories that it is distressingly common for careless remarks, especially from parents, to have devastating effects on the tender psyches of their children. Fortunately, hypnosis has proven to be one of the most direct and effective ways of helping sufferers of these debilitating disorders.