A Case of Anorexia
A Child Went Without Food So Others Had More
The niece in question was 13-year-old Amanda. She had been living with her Aunt for the past 6 months after being removed from her parents due to neglect and abuse. Amanda’s aunt had custody so I agreed to see Amanda. I suspected anorexia nervosa or a different eating disorder. Amanda had been under the care of a court-ordered counselor but there had been no change in the girl’s weight or her appetite.
Amanda was 5’2” tall and weighed 92 pounds. She was pale, and looked at the floor when walking or talking. I wondered what could’ve happened to this child to make her so withdrawn.
Her aunt filled me in on some of my questions prior to seeing Amanda. Teachers at her school had reported concern for the girl’s welfare to Child Protection Services when they noticed that Amanda was so thin, but at lunch time she would devour her food like she was starving. The investigation revealed that Amanda was given no food at home; so unless she went to school and ate lunch there (it was free from the state), she was given no food. Amanda’s parents and 2 brothers were overweight so it wasn’t that there wasn’t enough food. She slept on the floor in the kitchen as she had no bed. The investigators suspected sexual and physical abuse although everyone denied it. To protect Amanda, she was removed from the home and placed in the care of her aunt.
Even after being removed from the home and offered breakfast and supper, Amanda only picked at the plate, rarely eating more than a morsel of food. The counselor Amanda had been assigned to diagnosed her with anorexia nervosa, an eating disorder where the person—usually a teenage girl—refuses to eat food because of anxiety or a distorted view of their body image. Amanda was given an anti-anxiety drug and an appetite stimulant but neither had helped. Amanda had not gained any weight in the past 6 months.
Doctor: Do you know why you are here Amanda?
Amanda: Everyone thinks I’m too thin.
D: Do you think you are too thin?
A: I don’t know. (Started getting fidgety). You only want to know if I was molested. That’s all he (the counselor) wants to know.
D: I just want to talk with you to see if there is something I can do to help you with your appetite. (She was still fidgety). Do you want to talk about it?
A: I don’t like eating. (Calmer now)
D: Tell me about eating.
A: There’s not a lot of food I can eat.
D: Does food make you sick?
A: No! There’s just not a lot of food that I can eat.
D: Tell me more.
A: I can’t. They’ll get in trouble. (Restless again)
D: Tell me about yourself then. What do you like to read? What type of movies do you like?
A: (Calmer). I like mysteries. I like those shows where they solve crimes and catch the bad guys. (More excited now with hand gestures). My favorite ones are Criminal Minds where the bad guys are REALLY bad and they still get caught. I like that the main characters are a family and look out for each other. (Looking down again). They care about each other.
D: Taking care of others is important. (She nods). Tell me about your aunt.
A: (Shrugs). She’s okay.
D: Do you like living with her?
A: (Shrugs). It’s okay.
D: Is it better than where you were? (Restless again).
A: I get more food. I get to sleep in on Saturdays.
D: I love sleeping in on Saturdays too. (She calms). Do you stay up late on Friday nights?
A: (Smiles). I get to stay up and watch TV late. Diane (her aunt) makes pancakes on Saturdays.
D: You like pancakes? (Nods). What other foods do you like? (Restless again).
A: I can’t like to eat. (Crying).
D: Tell me more.
A: There isn’t enough to go around if I eat. (Still crying).
D: You believe that there isn’t enough food for everyone? (Nods). Tell me about that.
A: (She holds herself tight as if she is cold). Dad said we all had to make our belts tighter—you know, to keep us from feeling hungry—because we couldn’t afford food that month.
(NOTE: Amanda’s family was on welfare and food stamps).
A: So we all had to make sacrifices so the little bit of food fed us the whole month. There was no extra money to buy more food so we had to make it last. If I ate too we would run out then everyone would starve. (Still crying).
D: So you ate less than everyone else? (Nod). Did anyone else go without food?
A: (Thinking). I don’t thinks so. Maybe mom and dad did when I was at school.
D: What do you eat at home?
A: Crackers. Sometimes old stuff that tasted bad. (Became more upset and defensive). Oh, but I ate it anyway! I was told I had to eat it because we couldn’t waste food! (More quiet). One time I got SO sick—I puked for days. But I eat at school. I’m not starving!
D: Do you still feel there isn’t enough food? (Nods). Tell me about that.
A: It’s just me and Diane but she still has no more money than before. She gives me an allowance. (Smiles). Never got money before! But I send it all home so they’ll have more food. When I left they don’t get as much money from the state.
Although I wanted to know more, I felt I had enough to determine a remedy for Amanda. An exam showed Amanda to be healthy, albeit too thin. I suspected her pallor was because of lack of nutrients. Luckily there were no obvious signs of nutrient deficiency.
In general, she was neglected, treated as inferior (the rest of the family was superior). There was also competition for food, a hierarchy, where her family was allowed to eat first and Amanda was then given what was left over. If nothing was left, then Amanda was given nothing. Both of these denote the animal class of remedies.
Amanda mentioned that family was important and that it was important to take care of others, even to make sacrifices for the well-being of others in the family. She had to protect them even if it meant harming herself in the process. This led me to the class of mammals.
Amanda didn’t get the nourishment of either food or family. The basics of bonding were lacking. She felt she was unable to eat—it was psychologically withheld from her. It wasn’t that there was a lack of food available—as seen in her obese family members—food was withheld from her partly because she was treated as inferior and partly because she was unloved. This led me to select a Lac remedy.
I chose Lac humanum as it was her own mother that was not nurturing her. I chose the 200C potency and gave her a dose in office.
In her 1 month follow-up, Amanda had gained 5 pounds; it wasn’t a lot but it was a change. Diane (Amanda’s aunt) said Amanda was eating a little more. I noticed no change in her behaviors otherwise. She was still sending money home to her family and felt they would starve because she had left. I gave another dose of the Lac humanum.
By her 3rd follow-up, Amanda’s behaviors were starting to change. She had gained 10 pounds and was no longer pale. She was now eating at each meal and even enjoying eating. She was still sending money home to her family, but was keeping a little for herself now. She spoke less about food; it was no longer her focus.
I gave a placebo and opted to see if her body and mind were able to continue healing now without the nudge that homeopathy gives.
At her 6 month follow-up I realized that Amanda was going to be alright. Her weight had stabilized at 125 pounds and she was eating without concern for if there would be enough for everyone. I think she finally was beginning to realize that she was important too. I know she has a long road ahead of her for psychological healing but she has the right tools and people in her life to help make that happen.
I wish her the best.
Disclaimer: The information provided by Dr. Ronda Behnke is for educational purposes only. It is important that you not make health decisions or stop any medication without first consulting your personal physician or health care provider.
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