Four Basic Myths About Anorexia

(1) Anorexia Hysterica, or, if you like, hysterical anorexia, is not essentially about body image. However, it is essentially about Image. We should not reduce the category of Image to one of body image. The obsession with body image – which, from the clinical standpoint is not an obsession at all – is derivative, and only one possible manifestation of the obsession with Image.

(2) Anorexia does not only occur among those who were born female. However, from the clinical standpoint, the hysterical anorexic is, structurally speaking, always woman. This means that the anorexic strives toward some relation with an imaginary other. She strives to keep her own desire, and the desire of the imaginary other, alive. She does this by allowing herself not to enjoy.

(3) The anorexic does not deprive herself of food, she is not empty. Rather, she fills herself with nothing. She eats the nothing. This point is essential. The anorexic fills herself with nothing so that the other will love her. You can think about it this way: in a scientific experiment, it is only when you remove everything else from the situation that you can be sure that the relationship between two variables is a true one. In the same way, when you remove the demand to eat from the equation, you are left with a test of the loving relationship between a mother and her daughter.

(4) Anorexia is not essentially about food. It is about desire. Anorexia, as a concept, means “without appetite or desire.” The loss of appetite, like the obsession with body image, is only one possible outcome of the loss of desire. The anorexic is just as likely to consume nothing by having bare or highly selective bookshelves, walls (few, if any, paintings), etc. This is why anorexia can easily transform into melancholia.

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