Anorexia nervosa is a serious psychological disease, which is characterized by weight loss. The roots of this disease lie in the emotional state of a person. Thus, a patient requires the help of a psychologists, not a nutritionist. The case of Judy Jones, a 14-year old girl who has lost 30 pounds during the last year, is an example of the effect of emotional misbalance on the physical state of a person. The goal of a therapist is to identify the core reasons for the development of this disease and find out what methods and approaches will help stabilize the mental state of a patient and, as a result, treat anorexia nervosa.
As a mental disease, anorexia nervosa can be treated using various psychological therapy methods, but it should be taken into account that every separate case of this disease is unique and has a different background. In the case of a teenager girl, a therapist should use cognitive behavioral therapy. This approach, jointly with the experiential therapy and structural family therapy, identifies family relationships as a possible reason for developing anorexia nervosa, but it also uses a deeper analysis (The Center for Eating Disorders, 2016). For example, the structural family therapy states that the main issue is the problems within the family, and the goal of a therapist who applies to this method is to restore good relationships among the members of a family. Structural family therapy also considers a family and the relationships between children and parents as a possible reason for a mental problem. Cognitive behavioral therapy is the only method among the suggested list which analyzes the problem not only as a conflict in a family, but as the interconnection of personal emotions and relationships (Grilo & Mitchell, 2010). Hence, this therapeutic method considers a mental problem not only as a conflict within the family, but also as a conflict caused by personal emotions as a response to family matters. In other words, there might not be any significant factors which can lead to the development of conflicts in the family, but the emotions experienced by a family member towards certain aspects of life in general may become an issue.
Judy Jones is a teenager, and this fact should be taken into account when one decides which therapeutic approach to apply. At this age people experience rapid shifts in their emotional wellbeing. Hence, their behaviors and relationships are very unpredictable. A necessity to identify oneself as a social being may lead to a severe depression, dissatisfaction with own appearance, and even the development of such disease as anorexia (Grilo & Mitchell, 2010). According to this fact, if one applies any other suggested therapy, it may not provide any positive result, since it targets mostly interfamily relationships, while they might be more than satisfactory within this household. On the other hand, the relationship between Judy and her parents may have been ruined, but the reason is not misunderstanding or an inability to find common language with parents, but Judy’s changes in behavior caused by other factors, such as school life, fashion, trends, stereotypes or relationships with non-family members. Hence, even if the relationships within the family are destructive, they may not be caused by poor parental care, but the emotions that a child experiences due to the age-related changes. The goal of a therapist in such case is to identify the individual’s emotions together with family relationships that could have led to the development of anorexia nervosa.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is considered one of the most effective ways of treating mental problems among children and adolescences. The research conducted by Robert D. Friedberg in the article called “A Cognitive-Behavioral Approach to Family Therapy” proves that this method analyzes four main aspects which cause a mental problem - cognitions, emotions, actions and relationships (Friedberg, 2006). All these aspects are interconnected and depend on each other, and, if one of them changes, it bring corresponding alterations to the other parts of the system. The researcher posits that every household tries to maintain the family environment and satisfy the core family needs. Such needs as wellbeing, harmony and good relationships belong to this category. When these needs are not satisfied, a conflict in a family may arise. One should understand that family is a system, and every system strives to solve problems and stabilize its previous condition, which has been defined as satisfactory. Every family has certain expectations, standards and attributions, which apply to each of its members. However, the chosen methods may not always be adequate, because they do not direct such core reasons for changes as emotions (Friedberg, 2006). Hence, when cognitive process blocks the used sense of satisfaction, the family faces a problem, which is presented as a certain behavioral pattern.
In the case of Judy, the shifts in emotions that she experiences lead to the changes in her behavior, which are not standard for her family. As a result, the relationships within the family also change, and the family needs to restore them back to the previous level. Hence, Judy starts experiencing more problems, because now she is also expected to correspond to the required family standards, which she is unable to satisfy at this particular period of her life. All these factors put a huge pressure on the mental wellbeing of a teenager and may become the reason for such serious psychological diseases as anorexia nervosa. As a result, the abnormal weight loss is not an accident or a physical phenomenon, but a problem that has arisen because of the mental misbalance of a teenager. The research of Robert D. Friedberg shows that such cases should be treated using the specific structure (Friedberg, 2006). First, a therapist should work solely with the patient. At this stage, the goal is to define the mental state and experiences of the patient as well as establish the normal condition before the disease. One should understand how the emotional changes are reflected in a person’s behavior. Second, it is necessary to help the patient understand that the present health state is abnormal. As a rule, people who suffer from anorexia nervosa do not realize that they have a problem or that their condition is harmful to their mental and physical wellbeing. Thus, at the next stage, the therapist should establish contact with the patient and make him/her admit that he/she requires medical help in order to make positive changes to oneself. Only when the previous stages are successfully completed, the problem should be discussed on a family level, and other members can participate in the treatment process. In any other case, the influence of family members may not have any positive result and can only worsen the situation.
As a conclusion, it might be stated that such obvious physical disorders as anorexia nervosa often have psychological background. Treating this disease using certain nutrition or a diet will not have any durable and constant result, because only symptoms, but not the roots of the problem, are addressed in such a way. Only the help of a professional therapist as well as a correctly chosen therapeutic approach can guarantee that the problem will be solved and the patient’s health as well as wellbeing will return to the previous state.