Exploring the Cause of Eating Disorders - Familial Relationships and Bulimia

Exploring the Cause of Eating Disorders - Familial Relationships and Bulimia

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My sister is bulimic and has been in therapy for several months now. She seems to be making progress, but this eating disorder seems to rule her life nevertheless. Overwhelmed with conflicting desires, she is obsessed with food and her appearance. I see her suffer and wonder what has caused her to develop such behaviors. I know that there are several factors that can play a role in the inception of an eating disorder. Because of my sister’s problems, I have become interested in the interplay between familial relationships and bulimia. Is there a relationship between family interactions and bulimia?

There have been numerous studies about the characteristics of a bulimic's family. One of the earliest by Laurence Igoin-Apfelbaum (1985), studied 21 women who were diagnosed by the DSM-III as bulimics. In the group of patients, two patterns of family background could be found. Thirteen patients were from broken homes, and a common characteristic of these families was that the father virtually disappeared from the life of the daughter. The twelve other patients came from close knit families, in which the sacred union of these families against the outside world was a defensive organization hiding major tensions within the family unit.

The relationship between the bulimics and their mother is one of polarity. They feel that because their eating disturbances seem to worry their mother, she is the only one who cared, and as a result they do such things as calling their moms daily to make sure she is not worrying. At the same time they avoid their mother because they feel she can guess everything or demand so much from them that they would have no personal life left.

All the patients had harsh words for their fathers. They see him ...


... middle of paper ...


...ting Disorders. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 95(4), 395-402.

Humphrey, Laura Lynn (1989). Observed Family Interactions Among Subtypes of Eating Disorders Using Structural Analysis of Social Behavior. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 57(2), 206-214.

Igoin-Apfelbaum, Laurence (1985). Characteristics of Family Background in Bulimia. Psychother. Psychosom, 43, 161-167.

Kent, Jan S., and Clopton, J. R. (1992). Bulimic Women's Perceptions of Their Family Relationships. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 48(3), 281-292.

Laliberte, Michele., Boland, F. J. and Leichner, P. (1999). Family Climates: Family Factors Specific to Disturbed Eating and Bulimia Nervosa. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 55(9), 1021-1040.

Stuart, G. W., et al. (1990). Early Family Experiences of Women With Bulimia and Depression. Archives of Psychiatric Nursing, 4(1), 43-52.

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