Bernard Brusset : the figure of the anorexic in adolescence

The anorexic figures and illustrates the culture of anti-consumption and individualism, but the fascination it provokes goes well beyond this. It is exploited by television programs for its expressive strength as an enigma, the « golden cage » (Bruch), the mystery and the power of what appears to be choice of rupture with the family, with other adolescents, and with oneself. A heroic and sometimes deadly choice that is perceived as an accusation.
Multiple interpretations of mental anorexia according to some aspect of mores and models communicated by the dominant culture tend to deny its psychopathological specificity. Cultural and family factors, and traumatic events, are cited all the more in cases of minor forms of anorexia, or hysterical anorexia.
The spectacle of this supposedly deliberate choice, that of turning one’s back on the most basic and legitimate satisfactions, in order to risk death through the excesses of restrictive behavior involving more than just food, distracts attention from what psychoanalytical practice has shown: the strength of the anachronic affective demand (which can find a dangerous outlet in cases of bulimia) and of ambivalence in the relationship with the parents, and especially the mother, depending on the background of infanthood. This would explain why we find in the entourage, in proportion to the anxiety anorexia gives rise to, reactions amounting to a disavowal of meaning: there is nothing to understand, it’s a sickness, a brain abnormality. Though anorexics may refuse to be force fed, they do ask to be listened to ; behind the façade of a thin body fetish lies an upset and a demand to be heard.