Anorexia nervosa (self-starvation leading to extreme weight loss) is a disorder which has been around for hundreds of years, but it has, along with its associated syndrome, bulimia (excessive morbid hunger and fear of fatness leading to gorging/purging compulsion), shown an enormous increase in occurrence and interest in the last decades. The number of victims affected is staggering. There may be as many as 500,000 or more afflicted with these disorders, and for many the suffering is a life-long problem, often leading to death. The emotional and physiological damage to the victims of these eating disorders is extremely dangerous and deeply painful to themselves but also to their families who are impotent to control the self-imposed starvation and obsessions of their children.
The questions I should like to pose in writing this curriculum unit are: Why are these disorders of such alarming, epidemic proportions in this country? Can we educate teachers, families, professionals and adolescents to some of the forces that predispose them to this type of behavior? Can we undertake a prevention program in the schools that combines nutritional and emotional education? Can we assist adolescents in becoming more aware of their strengths and facilitate development of appropriate coping strategies in dealing with conflict? Can we help them in achieving a better understanding and acceptance of who they are?