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Ben-Meir, M. Bucci, W. Bers, S.A. (2009). The Language of Anorexia Nervosa: Implications for the “Talking Cure”. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 57(1):181-187.

(2009). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 57(1):181-187

The Language of Anorexia Nervosa: Implications for the “Talking Cure”

Michal Ben-Meir, Wilma Bucci and Susan A. Bers

“It is impossible to sufficiently articulate an inarticulate process, a very wordless time. I did not learn to live by words, so I have found myself with few words to describe what happened. … I have added words, color, and chronology to a time in my life that appears to me a pile of random frames scattered over the floor of my brain. … I'm often surprised that I exist” (Hornbacher 1998, p. 279).

Marya Hornbacher wrote about her struggle to articulate her experience as a patient suffering from anorexia nervosa. Many anorexic patients, mostly girls and women, feel they cannot find words to describe their feelings. Clinicians have noted the difficulty that the anorexic patient faces when trying to engage in the “talking cure.” Farrell (2000), for example, highlighted her impression that anorexics are “lost for words.” They cannot find the words to express and name the turmoil of their experience to themselves or to others. Neither food nor communication can provide them nourishment and sustenance. As a result, the anorexic patient typically has a hazy perception of her body and her self.

Based on clinical observations of this sort, a split between mind and body is considered to be characteristic of anorexia nervosa. The anorexic patient resorts to “utilizing” her body to express emotions she cannot bring into her mind. If we listen to the anorexic patient's voice, we might end up listening to a silence that is drowned out by the action she takes on her body.

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