Can hypnotherapy help cure anorexia nervosa?
Anorexia nervosa is often thought of as a condition of a physical nature, however it is actually a mental health issue which has an impact on the individuals physical health and well-being. It is more commonly found in females though there are a rising number of males being diagnosed as social media puts a lot of pressure on young people of both sexes to look unrealistically good at all times.
Anorexia is all about control. The individual may begin by wanting to lose a couple of pounds but quickly realise they enjoy the control they have over their body. They can quickly become obsessed with their weight and their appearance and do everything they can to lose more and more. Every morsel of food has to be accounted for and counting calories becomes the most important thing in their lives. They will increase their exercise regime often going through gruelling routines relentlessly, hiding food from their family at mealtimes, or vomiting it back up immediately after eating. The weight loss is never enough and they then get a distorted perception of their body image so they increase the exercise even more , even as their body becomes weaker through lack of nutrition. They punish themselves if they eat the tiniest morsel of extra food, over use laxatives to enable them to vacate their bowels, take diuretics and even enemas.
They still see themselves as overweight despite the mirror showing them their ribs are sticking out and displaying a skeletal image. They become secretive, hiding their body from those closest to them by wearing baggy clothes and will pretend they are eating full meals. Their every thought becomes about food as starvation sets in and occasionally they may binge but immediately purge again. This is similar to the condition called bulimia nervosa where binging and purging is a way of life for those who suffer from it, however they normally maintain a normal body weight although the internal and long term damage to their body is similar to anorexia.
As secretive as an anorexic is, they cannot hide their condition long term as it becomes impossible to hide their gaunt appearance. The consequences of punishing their bodies becomes apparent as other symptoms appear. These include thinning hair and brittle nails, constant fatigue, constantly cold, insomnia, low blood pressure or low blood count, depression and in females menstruation stops.
There is no medication available to prevent anorexia. If their body mass goes below an acceptable level hospitalisation is normally the only option. There, they are treated by psychologists and dietitians and are closely monitored to ensure they eat and not discharged until their weight is back up to an acceptable level. Unfortunately many go straight back to their old ways as they cannot accept they have a problem and do not want help. Sadly, some do die and even up to the very end they still believe they need to lose more weight.
Hypnotherapy can be beneficial by helping the individual look at the reasons why they need this control in their lives. The therapist will work with them to get to the root cause as to why they want to abuse their body in this way. There are several reasons why they may have developed anorexia. Bullying is often a root cause where the person feels helpless, but gaining control of their body can make them feel better. An innocent throw away comment by a family member about their weight may be taken out of context, or perhaps a family member is a serial dieter who constantly goes on about their weight and talks about food all the time. The media portrays unrealistic body images of skinny models who have also been airbrushed and brain wash the public into believing being unnaturally thin is the only acceptable body image. Our obsession with celebrity lifestyles again puts enormous pressure on impressionable young people to look like them. Celebrities however, have the time and the money to spend on their appearance using personal trainers, personal chefs and surgical procedures to enable them to look as good as they do.
A good therapist will work on the individuals self-esteem, raise their confidence and help them gain a more realistic self image of themselves. The therapist will work on changing the individuals relationship with food from one of fear that food is bad to realising that food is fuel to give the body nutrition.
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About Biodun Ogunyemi
Biodun Ogunyemi is the founder of Optimind, one of the leading hypnotherapy practices within the UK. He has practiced on Harley Street and is an experienced hypnotherapist, trained to the highest level in Advanced Hypnotherapy and NLP and is the author of over 180 hypnosis products.