Nina, the ballerina in the Black Swan, believes that people who attempt or threaten to interfere with her distorted thinking are dangerous to herself and her goals. She is as merciless with them as she is with herself.
She doesn’t perceive the emotional consequences to others her behavior causes. If she gets a glimmer of pain she causes in others she will justify it to herself by saying she had no choice. And indeed, to her eating-disordered mind, she didn’t have a choice.
None of these qualities have anything to do with the authentic person she is. Even she doesn’t know who she is or could be. She has become consumed by her obsessions and will go to terrible extremes to reach her unreachable goals.
Examples from life include these sad stories:
- Families mortgaging their homes or going bankrupt from pouring money into treatment programs. The eating-disordered person promises to make it work for the third or fourth time and refuses to cooperate or leave.
- Friends and family members pouring time and money into rescuing the eating-disordered person from situations she can't cope with:
- Suicide attempts
- Stranded somewhere with no money or transportation
- Picked up by police for shoplifting
- Hurt by damaging herself
- Hurt by dangerous companions
- Hurt by engaging in risk-taking behavior
- Friends and family suffer worry or embarrassment when she doesn't show up for scheduled events or does show up and acts like a hostile or provocative child.
- Friends and family lose time, money and hope after loaning or giving money many times for many "fresh starts" that always end in the same kind of failure.
- Friends and family are under severe distress when she continually engages in self-destructive behavior.
- Friends and family going through agonizing pain, perhaps forever when she dies.
Anorexia and bulimia create a blinding sense of entitlement in a person who has no real sense of the pain and damage she causes others. These illnesses consume the adult potential of the woman, leaving a partially developed child mind bolstered by fantasy, distortions and justified rationalizations.
What could have developed as part of the whole and integrated adult identity didn’t develop. Skills and tools for healthy self-care didn’t develop either. Because of her distorted thinking and limited psychic structure, she honors her fantasies and plunges toward her impossible goals regardless of the cost to anyone including herself.
Anorexia is a killer. It’s an illness that maims or destroys the mind, soul and body of the person with anorexia and the people around her.
Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.
Written by Joanna Poppink, MFT. Joanna is a psychotherapist in private practice specializing in eating disorder recovery, stress, PTSD, and adult development.
She is licensed in CA, AZ, OR, FL, and UT. Author of the Book: Healing Your Hungry Heart: Recovering from Your Eating Disorder
Appointments are virtual.
For a free telephone consultation, e-mail her at