by Christine Halse, Anne Honey, and Desiree Boughtwood; New York, Jessica Kingsley Publishing, 2007, 224 pages, $19.95
Dr. Mastis is a child psychiatry fellow at the Department of Psychiatry, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester.
From the first medical description of anorexia nervosa in 1689 by Richard Morton — first coined by Sir William Gull in the 19th century — our understanding of anorexia nervosa has significantly advanced. It has progressed from the historical perspective that its symptoms can be explained merely by a "nervous loss of appetite." Despite our more advanced modern perspective, complexities of this illness continue to mystify, and its exact causes continue to elude us. The result often leaves patients and families in the wake of this devastating illness feeling without clear answers, alone, and at times unheard.
Inside Anorexia compiles the stories of eight adolescent girls and their families who are currently struggling with anorexia nervosa. The book's purpose is to highlight that "the unique experiences and circumstances of individuals are the starting point for any discussion of anorexia amongst teenage girls and their families." It reminds us that the experience of anorexia, like all mental illness, is different for each individual, and an individualized approach is necessary to begin to understand and to manage such as a multifaceted condition.
The book poignantly follows the accounts of the teenage girls, siblings, mothers, and fathers as they attempt to make meaning of and come to terms with anorexia in real time, rather than from a post recovery perspective. The structure of the book is unique in that the family biographies are the scaffold upon which pertinent information and issues about anorexia are presented. The authors use text boxes in each story to present an overview of current knowledge about anorexia across a wide range of disciplines. Such topics include the physical effects of anorexia and starvation, the effect of anorexia on family members, the influence of family on treatment, education and prevention, social and cultural studies, as well as original research findings from the authors.
Christine Halse, Ph.D., is an associate professor in education and chief investigator of the Australian Research Council project, Multiple Perspectives of Eating Disorder in Girls, at the University of Western Sydney, Australia. Anne Honey, Ph.D., has a background in mental health research and occupational therapy and is senior researcher with the same project, at the University of Western Sydney. Desiree Boughtwood, Ph.D., is a counselor whose doctoral thesis, titled "Anorexia Nervosa in the Clinic," examined teenage girls' experiences of hospitalization for anorexia nervosa.
Inside Anorexia has general reader appeal and is an easy read from start to finish. The book is of particular interest to anyone at the beginning stages of learning about the complexities of this disease. It may also offer support and some illumination to patients and families who are at the beginning of their journey with this illness.