Psychogenic Inappetence and its Causes
All cases of lack of appetite (inappetence, anorexia) that come for treatment in the Dispensary are mostly of psychogenic origin. This is because the pediatrician or school doctor who refers the patient to us keeps cases of organic disease, poor diet or poor organization of the child’s life.
In most cases of psychogenic inpetence, the child suffers from a lack of appetite almost from the beginning of life. It is reluctant to take food, eats slowly and grumpily, is picky when eating, complains that it cannot eat, leaves part of the meal. This is due to a series of wrong feeding procedures. They burden the child’s need to eat with negative emotions, feelings of reluctance, fear, resistance, defiance and the like. Then the child loses his appetite, the educators increase the pressure, and this does not allow him to show his natural need to eat to the fullest. The struggle over food continues indefinitely, so the child suffers from a lack of appetite for years, which is especially easily disturbed in stunted, sick children, as well as in children who suffer from organic digestive disorders, if feeding is violent.
Feeding Procedures and Neurotic Lack of Appetite
Such major feeding mistakes are repeated by educators in other educational situations. If they are rude to a child while eating and provoke his defiance, they provoke him anyway; if they are everywhere too lenient or inconsistent, teaching the child arbitrariness and capriciousness, so are they when feeding. That is why the general attitude of the child towards educators is transferred to food intake. If a child is accustomed to bullying his parents by his own will, he also bullies them when eating; if he defies them everywhere, he defies them when they eat, etc.
Neurotic lack of appetite can, therefore, be the result of a variety of educational mistakes. All of them can be the cause of a child’s conflict with his natural need for food with his negative attitude towards those who provide him with that food. This is the reason that in addition to the lack of appetite, various behavioral disorders and sometimes other neuroses regularly occur. Psychogenic inpetence is a sign that a child is living in constant conflict with the environment. That this is so is best proved by the fact that a child who eats very poorly at home may suddenly feel a normal appetite when he is in another environment, for example with some relatives, in kindergarten or on vacation. This, of course, only happens on the condition that he welcomes the child in the second half and a completely new feeding procedure.
Prevention and Treatment of Psychogenic Inappetence
Psychogenic inpetence in early childhood is prevented and eliminated by proper feeding when feeding. In later childhood, all difficulties related to the child’s nutrition should be responded to in the same way. Other prevention and treatment of psychogenic inpetence, as well as mental anorexia, do not contain anything specific. It coincides with a generally proper upbringing procedure with a young man. All negativity should be removed from the contact with him, a mental atmosphere should be created around the young person without tension and conflict, so his appetite will manifest in a natural way.
Psychogenic Inappetence in Adolescents: Mental Anorexia
Psychogenic inappetence sometimes appears as an expression of the emotional shock that a child experiences in connection with a life situation that he feels is too much of a psychological burden. The most common cause of neurotic conflict is the birth of another child, going to school, or a change of residence. These are all experiences to which a child with a normal emotional life adapts without difficulty.
But he experiences emotional conflict if he feels threatened since his brother was born, or coming to school or any new environment imposes a strong sense of insecurity. In such situations, incontinence tends to occur along with other neuroses, such as bedwetting, stuttering, night terrors, and more.
Psychogenic lack of appetite can occur with particular severity in puberty and adolescence. Then the young person eats almost nothing, loses weight, and his physical and mental condition is significantly reduced, sometimes to such an extent that he has to lie in bed. Such severe forms of psychogenic inpetence – the so-called. mental anorexia – occur almost exclusively in girls. The causes are different. It happens, for example, that a girl consciously goes on a hunger strike.
We knew a 14-year-old student who stopped taking food when a physical education teacher (with whom she was also secretly in love) started teasing her about her obesity. In the third grade of high school, several students began a hunger strike when they heard somewhere that a woman could lose her period if she lost weight abruptly. These girls believed that they would then be able to have sex with the boys without the risk of pregnancy. One of them, who was persistent until the end, while the others capitulated and started eating again, fell into a real mental anorexia. When she regretted losing so much weight that she became very ugly, her metabolism was already so damaged that she really had no more appetite, although she wanted to eat again. Her appetite was re-established only when she was artificially fed for a while and at the same time underwent psychotherapy.
Emotional Conflicts and Mental Anorexia
Mental anorexia can also be caused by deep emotional conflicts between a young man and his surroundings. Then the “hunger strike” is more or less unconscious in nature, an expression of the latent, repressed rebellion of the adolescent against his life situation.
A typical example is 15-year-old Mirjana. Although she already feels like a girl, her mother treats her like a small child. When a girl shows a desire to be an adult in anything, such as dressing, combing, reading and other forms of entertainment, the mother ridicules her, belittles her interests į forces her to dress and rule like a girl. In addition, he significantly neglects his younger daughter. This one is prettier than Mirjana, and the mother can’t keep it to herself, but in a very tactless way blames the girl for her unsightly appearance:
‘What do you need a new dress for, do you think you’ll be prettier in it? It doesn’t pay to buy anything nice, it doesn’t look good on you anyway! ”
Disappointed in her mother and deeply discouraged by her actions, Mirjana tried to find emotional support in her father. But this one showed no interest in his child’s emotional needs. Mirjana plays the piano, so she tried to get her father to listen to a performance by Mozart or Beethoven. But her father said without hesitation that it was boring and turned his back on her. She repeatedly wished that her father would take her for a walk, to the cinema, to a concert. But her father turned on her to leave him alone. After a whole series of similar experiences with her father, Mirjana began to fall into increasing depression. In addition, she almost completely stopped eating. When she was forced to eat at the table and scolded, she demonstratively got up and locked herself in her room. Or she would force the food into herself, and then, before lunch was over, she would return everything to the other family members. It was only after a long period of psychotherapy that the girl became mentally fit enough to distance herself emotionally from her family to a certain extent. At that point, her appetite gained normal intensity.
Mental anorexia can have other causes, such as dissatisfaction with one’s appearance, rebellion against one’s own sexuality, the desire to reject femininity, and the like. In such cases, the young person should undergo intensive psychotherapy, and sometimes artificial nutrition. Their surroundings should be advised on how to correct their attitude towards the young person and help them take a more realistic attitude towards themselves and the people around them.
Preventing and Treating Psychogenic Lack of Appetite
Psychogenic lack of appetite in early childhood is prevented and eliminated by proper feeding practices. In later childhood, all difficulties related to the child’s nutrition should be responded to in the same way. Other prevention and treatment methods of psychogenic inpetence, as well as mental anorexia, do not contain anything specific. It coincides with a generally proper upbringing procedure with a young man. All negativity should be removed from contact with them, and a mental atmosphere should be created around them without tension and conflict, so their appetite will manifest in a natural way.
Sometimes, psychogenic inappetence continues into adulthood. These are then people who are very capricious, picky, disgusting when eating, always eat against their will, cannot be delighted with any dish; in short, they do not know how to enjoy eating. It is important to note that while the causes of psychogenic lack of appetite can vary, it is usually a sign that a person is living in constant conflict with their environment. By removing negativity from contact with them and creating a supportive mental atmosphere, we can help them overcome these issues and establish healthy eating habits.