Hungry for self-help advice

20th June 1997 at 01:00
ANOREXIA NERVOSA: THE WISh TO CHANGE. By A H Crisp, N Joughin, C Halek and C Bowyer. Second edition. Pounds 9.95. Psychology Press, 27 Church Road, Hove, East Sussex BN3 2FA. Tel: 01273 207411

Kevin Berry welcomes a helpful and honest appreciation of the torment of anorexia

Anorexia is not easy to understand, it torments and frustrates and piles agonies on to sufferers and their families. Anorexics cannot simply "snap out of it", adult anger is pointless and dear old Aunty Nelly's delicious meringues will not work their usual wonders. If the predictions of psychologists are accurate, then more and more teenagers are going to feel the terror or anorexia, their parents and teachers will not understand how they feel and think, and will not be able to help. The few specialist resources available are overwhelmed with patient referrals - and they're just the anorexics who are actively seeking help.

Professor Arthur Crisp and the team of authors behind Anorexia Nervosa: The Wish to Change have put together a book that speaks the language of anorexics, identifying the terrors and storms of the disease in their terms and setting out carefully gauged self-help directions for any who want to overcome the disease. The non-judgmental advice will make good sense to the anorexic.

Its flexible approach hits the appropriate notes: there is no pressure to get back to what was "normal" weight and compromises are couched with a level of reasoning that sufferers will understand - "If you are planning to stay an anorexic and simply improve your condition within it as far as possible, then all that has so far been said can be of help but you should skip the next section....".

The section devoted to "changing patterns of behaviour" - vomiting, laxative abuse etc - is amongst the most clear, lucid and helpful I have read. It is almost as if the paragraphs had been written by sufferers who have known the pain and the problems. Anorexics will appreciate the helpful, honest appreciation of their difficulties and, at the same time, an adult reader will begin to understand just how terribly difficult it is to stop the cycle of vomiting.

As the father of an anorexic girl I would hope to see this book on the shelf of every staffroom of every secondary school. It has immense value for bewildered young sufferers, and teachers and parents will gain some priceless understanding if they read it.

If a skeletal girl claims that she is fat then she really, really believes that she is fat. When she looks in a mirror she sees a fat person.The apparently harmless and well-meaning comment "my, but you do look well" can induce wild panic and vomiting. Looking well means looking fat to the anorexic.

Read this book and understand why.

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