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Winston, A.P. (2016). An Island Entire of Itself: Narcissism in Anorexia Nervosa. J. Infant Child Adolesc. Psychother., 15(4):309-318.

(2016). Journal of Infant, Child & Adolescent Psychotherapy, 15(4):309-318

An Island Entire of Itself: Narcissism in Anorexia Nervosa

Anthony P. Winston, FRCPsych

This article explores the idea of anorexia nervosa as a narcissistic disorder, in which the denial of the need for food symbolically represents a denial of the need for relatedness and dependence. Narcissism is a state in which self and object are undifferentiated and all objects are felt to be within the individual’s omnipotent control. Primary narcissism occurs when the capacity for object relations has never developed and secondary narcissism develops as a defense against dependence which is associated with overwhelming anxiety, envy, or fear of disappointment. Both processes can occur in anorexia nervosa, which provides a cognitive and behavioral framework for the expression and maintenance of the narcissistic position. Narcissistic anorexia is a state of omnipotent isolation in which the patient denies one of her most basic needs and rejects a powerful source of connection with the outside world. An important aim of therapy is to help the patient to develop a capacity for object relations and to be able to acknowledge dependence. This is achieved through coming to experience the therapist as separate and real and requires the therapist to resist being taken over by the patient’s projections.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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