Psychodynamic explanation for anorexia

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Psychodynamic explnation to Anorexia Nervosa

Oral impregnation:

Freud saw eating and sex as symbolically related.  Girls may link the fattening stomach caused by eating with that of pregnancy at an unconscious level.  Refusing to eat, therefore, could be seen as a refusal to accept developing sexuality.  The girl wants to remain immature so she doesn’t have to adopt the responsibilities of the adult role.  One way to achieve this is to stop eating which helps to maintain the pre-pubescent shape and as we’ve seen, can stop periods.

Bruch believes that this is a two way process, since the daughter can continue to rely on the mother for security and the mother in turn is able to keep their daughter safe and in the home.

However, as with all psychodynamic theories, Bruch’s ideas on oral impregnation are unscientific and untestable.  The unconscious forces involved are hypothetical constructs that cannot be observed or measured by any objective means. 

Ineffective parenting

Effective parents, according to Bruch, feed their children when they’re hungry and comfort them when they’re anxious.

Ineffective parents, may mis-read the cues.  When the anxious child cries the mother might feed it, believing it to be hungry and when it cries due to hunger she may comfort it believing it to be anxious.   This confuses the child about their own internal state and their needs.  It makes them dependent on others, for example to tell tem when they’re hungry.

As it reaches adolescence it is expected to become increasingly independent, but their uncertainty makes them fearful.  This results in a feeling of helplessness and not being in control of their own body.  The one thing they can control with certainty is their eating.

Bruch (1975) found that many mothers


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