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Reilly, E.A. (2004). Skin Deep: Psychic Skin, Second-Skin Formation and its Links with Eating Disorders. Free Associations, 11(1):134-174.

(2004). Free Associations, 11(1):134-174

Skin Deep: Psychic Skin, Second-Skin Formation and its Links with Eating Disorders

Elizabeth A. Reilly

In this paper, the role of the skin as metaphor, as described by Esther Bick, is considered and extended to help conceptualize the psychopathology of eating-disorders. The functions of psychic skin are discussed, along with the formation of mental space, Bion's notion of containment and the work of Anzieu, which leads into a discussion on greed. Second-skin formations are considered in terms of active use of musculature, which is here illustrated through a consideration of the language use of an eating-disordered patient. The role of clinging and adhesive identity in eating-disorders is then explored, along with a conceptualization of skin as a cultural container. Finally, the use of clothes as a second-skin formation is detailed. The various ideas are illustrated with clinical examples from the author's practice as well as from the literature.

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