The process of recovering from anorexia nervosa

J Am Acad Psychoanal. Spring 1989;17(1):103-30. doi: 10.1521/jaap.1.1989.17.1.103.


The authors describe the process of recovering from anorexia nervosa as it is revealed by 13 women who have recovered from the illness. Emphasizing the patient's perspective, the paper reviews the perceived causes of the disorder, helpful and harmful therapy-related and life experiences, features hardest to change, the defensive function of anorexia nervosa and residual traits. Generally, the movement toward health entails forming a therapeutic relationship in which the anorexic can identify and express feelings, experience the empathic, nonjudgmental understanding of another person, separate from a pathological family system, resolve hostile dependent attachment to parents, assuage primitive guilt, and engage in the trials of adolescent psychosexual development to enter adulthood with the beginnings of a firm, cohesive sense of self.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anorexia Nervosa / etiology
  • Anorexia Nervosa / rehabilitation*
  • Anorexia Nervosa / therapy
  • Family
  • Family Therapy
  • Female
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Mother-Child Relations
  • Object Attachment
  • Prognosis
  • Psychotherapy, Group
  • Self Concept