Eating disorders

What drives a girl with a developmental history that does not seem to have known relevant traumas or dramas to refusing food to risk losing her life? Why does anorexia arise in the absolute majority of cases in adolescence? And why is it still an almost exclusively female disease? What aspects of family dynamics play an important role in fostering the development of anorexia and other eating disorders? And how much does the broader social context affect it? Why does anorexia, previously a rare disease, become epidemic, in the second half of the seventies in the West? What social conflicts emerged in those years that this psychopathology expresses?

Ugazio’s model of semantic polarities answers these questions and others in:

SEMANTIC POLARITIES AND PSYCHOPATHOLOGY IN THE FAMILY Permitted and Forbidden Stories by Valeria Ugazio    

 5° capitolo (pp.218-261)

New York: Routledge, 2013

A CONVERSATION DOMINATED BY THE SEMANTIC OF POWER

One of the main thesis put forward here BY UGAZIO (2013)is that the semantic of power dominates the conversation in families where eating disorders develop

What dominates the conversation is the semantic of power, where some win and some lose, some are successful, some become central figures in the family and the community, and others give up. As well as the “winner/loser” polarity, these families also have a second polarity – “strong-willed/yielding” – which is hierarchically dependent on the first, based on a relation of means to an end. These people are winners because they are willful, determined or efficient, or they are losers because they are passive, compliant or liable to give in to others. Affability, amenability, acceptance of the definition given by the other person to the relationship are construed within these families as passivity, faint-heartedness, ineptitude. 

(Ugazio, 2013,p.181-182)

HAVE STUDIES BEEN CARRIED OUT THAT CONFIRMING THE PUT FORWARD THESES ?

Yes, at least one of the fundamental theses of this model has been empirically confirmed. It is the hypothesis that the semantic of power prevails in family conversation where eating disorders develop.

This thesis has been confirmed by studies carried out  by us,  using   a specifically designed instrument to identify and classify the family semantics – the Family Semantics Grid:

Ugazio, V, Negri, A., e Fellin, L. (2015), Freedom, Goodness, Power and Belonging. The Semantics of Phobic, Obsessive-Compulsive, Eating, and Mood Disorders Journal of Constructivist Psychology, vol. 28, 4, 293-315 doi: 10.1080/10720537.2014.951109

Ugazio, V., Negri A., & Fellin L. (2017) Libertà, Bontà, Potere e Appartenenza: le semantiche dei disturbi fobici, ossessivo compulsivi, alimentari e dell’umore. Rivista italiana di costruttivismo, 5, 1, Aprile 2017, pp.4-27.

Ugazio, V., Negri, A., & Fellin, L. (2011). Significato e psicopatologia la semantica dei disturbi fobici, ossessivi, alimentari e depressivi [Meaning and psychopathology. The semantics of phobic, obsessive, eating and depressive disorders]. Quaderni di Psicologia Clinica, 2 (pp.69-100). Bergamo: Bergamo University Press.

Also other indipendent researchers, who used different instruments , confermed the prevalence of the semantic of power in eating disorders.

Castiglioni M., Faccio E., Veronese G. e Bell C. R. (2013) The Semantics of Power among People with Eating Disorders Journal of Constructivist Psychology, vol. 26, 1, 62-76 doi: 10.1080/10720537.2013.740263.

Castiglioni M., Pepe A., Gandino G. e Veronese G. (2013) Self-Other Positioning in Obesity. A Pilot Study Using Repertory Grid Technique The Open Psychology Journal, vol. 6, 61-68 doi: 10.2174/1874350101306010061.

Faccio E., Belloni, E. e Castelnuovo G. (2012) The Power of Semantics in Self and the Repertory Grid Representations. A Comparison between Obese and Normal-Weight Adult Women, Frontiers in Psychology, vol. 3, doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00517.

Faccio,E., Belloni Cipolletta S., Iudici A., Castiglioni M. e Mannarini S. (2016) The Power of Weight and the Weight of Power in Adolescence. A Comparison between Young and Adult Women Journal of Family Studies, 1-15 doi: 10.1080/13229400.2016.1187660

DOES THE SEMANTIC OF POWER DOMINATE THE CONVERSATION ALSO WITHIN FAMILIES WHERE DISORDERS OTHER THAN EATING ONES DEVELOP?

Laura Colangelo put forward the interesting hypothesis that families in which borderline disorders develop are characterized by the same semantics of eating disorders.

Colangelo, L. (2005). Il disturbo borderline di personalità come esito di un processo di costruzione sociale [Borderline personality disorder as a result of a process of social construction.] Terapia Familiare, 78: 53-82

DOES THIS MODEL HAVE THERAPEUTIC IMPLICATIONS?

Yes, mainly because the therapeutic relationship changes in relation to semantics. The therapeutic alliance, the possible fractures, the dysfunctional circuits are as different as the prevailing semantics.

Ugazio V. (2019) Anorexic girls and their families: how can we deal with their semantic and its dilemmas? Psychotherapy Section Review,63, pp. 10-23.

Ugazio V. (2013) La famiglia nel trattamento dei disturbi alimentari [The family in the treatment of eating disordes]. In M.G. Gentile (a cura di), Nutrizione clinica e psicopatologie correlate (pp.45-57). Fidenza: Mattioli.

Ugazio V. (2010). Los trastornos de la conducta alimentaria: cuando el rechazo a la jerarquia se vuelve derrumbamiento de las diferencias. Mosaico, 44: 25-35.

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