The Importance of the Embodiment Paradigm in the Interpretation and Treatment of Anorexia Nervosa

Present study introduces the possible benefits of the embodiment perspective for the interpretation and treatment of anorexia nervosa, the disorder in which the experience of one’s lived body plays a prominent role. In the interpretation of the function and malfunction of the human psyche mainstream, psy-scientific approaches favor the natural scientific framework. According to this, mental health problems are primarily localized in the brain and the nervous system, meanwhile, the body is subordinated to the individual cognitive processes. The embodiment paradigm, however, could serve as a tool for the critique of this psychological model, as it approaches various mental disorders through the lived experiences of the body. The medical interpretation of anorexia regards women’s body image disorder as an individual problem. Feminist critique, on the other hand, opposes this individualizing perspective and focuses more on the socially determining factors behind the development of the disease. In contrast to the physiological explanations, it emphasizes the social representations of ideal femininity; the cultural practices that create them; the question of personal and social control; and the symbolic meanings of the body. At the same time, these primarily social-constructivist theories reproduce the mistake of psychiatry, as for them the body still exists as a passive matter that could only acquire meaning through symbolic signifying acts. Within both paradigms, the female body takes on a passive, subordinated role. In contrast, embodiment uses lived, bodily experiences to interpret the social and personal causes of anorexia nervosa. Therefore, the paradigm does not impose an external interpretation on women’s body but aids to strengthen agency by emphasizing the importance of bodily experiences. This study builds on the ideas of phenomenology, especially those of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, to describe the approach of embodiment. Aside from this, it seeks to mention some of the possible therapeutic procedures, based on the embodiment paradigm that professionals may successfully apply in the treatment of anorexia. It is important to emphasize that the combined and complex application of psy-sciences, critical theories, and embodiment together connote the most effective way for healing, but for this, it is essential to address social issues that are affecting women at the clinical level.

Released: Replika 121–122, 83–93.
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