When you feel like bingeing or restricting “just happens,” how do you begin to uncover how you got there… so you can take steps to make it stop?

Believe it or not, an eating disorder has a purpose.

That purpose might be to manage emotions that feel intolerable, whether that’s anger, sadness, or yes, even desire. But how do you begin to name WHAT you’re feeling, and resolve it? How would you even recognize desire as something that’s playing out in food for you? Dr. Judith Brisman and I got to talk about exactly that today.

This week on Wellbeing we are kicking off our 13-part series on Anorexia Nervosa. Anorexia has the highest fatality rate of any mental health condition and is characterised by a fear of being overweight. In our first instalment we are talking with internationally renowned eating disorder expert Dr. Judith Brisman. Dr Brisman is the co-author of Surviving an Eating Disorder which, when it was first released in 1988, was the first book to offer effective advice for families and friends of those with eating disorders. Dr Brisman is also a pioneer in the eating disorders field having founded The Eating Disorder Resource Center in 1981 which was the first centre of its kind.

In this episode, Dr Brisman talks about what anorexia is, how and why it occurs, its effect on the body and the internal organs, anorexia in younger people, anorexia in those who are part of the LGBTQ community, the effects of social media on anorexia’s prevalence, stigma around those with anorexia, anorexia recovery in children, how anorexia impacts the brain, and her role as a psychoanalyst in recovery.

“We are also seeing that we totally missed the world of gender fluidity; of course this is all a new subject and we are learning so much about this. Think about it, if you are in a male body and you believe you’re a woman and you’re 13 years old or 15 years old and you want to look like you really believe you are, the first thing you are going to do it make your body smaller, and so we are also seeing anorexia in the transgender community” – Dr. Judith Brisman on this episode of Wellbeing

Dr. Judith Brisman was the Founding Director of the Eating Disorder Resource Center for over 35 years. She is coauthor of Surviving an Eating Disorder: Strategies for Family and Friends (Harper Collins,2021, 4th Edition), is on the editorial boards of the journals Contemporary Psychoanalysis and Eating Disorders. She is a member of the teaching faculty at the William Alanson White Institute and she maintains a private practice in New York City.

Dr. Brisman is known internationally as among the first in her field to develop a treatment program for bulimic patients. She has published and lectured extensively regarding the interpersonal treatment of eating disorders.

We discuss topics including:

  • Patterns of how people interact
  • Mistakes that are often made when working with families in the first edition of her book
  • The relationship model
  • The parents job is making it real
  • Parents watching “body talk”

“When someone is disordered in their eating often what you find is that they’ve been a kid who has learned to have radar for the feelings of other people. Whether it’s a family where the kid can’t express their emotions and parents’ emotions rule, that kid has learned to look to the outside to figure out who she should be. So of course, in our culture that means that they looked to the scale, they looked to Instagram, but when it comes to sexuality it’s the same thing. This isn’t a matter of they’re having their own feelings that they are conflicted about – they are looking to the outside world to see what they can paste on in terms of whom they are supposed to be. They don’t have a sense of their sexuality. They don’t have a sense of their hunger. And if you don’t have a sense of what you are hungry for with food, how can you possibly have a sense of what you are hungry for with sex.” 

Episode Description: We begin by describing the tendency for eating-disordered individuals to block out their internal experiences. As a result, it is often those who are external but caring about the struggling person who develops strong feelings about their difficulties. We discuss three common clinical situations and unpack the observations of those who are interested in the patient and what may be going on in the inner life of the symptomatic individual. We consider perfectionism, good/bad thinking, individuation and sexuality, and the importance of the therapist-patient relationship as the vehicle to discover inner-derived identity and desire.

When someone you love appears to be struggling with an eating disorder, it is hard to know what to say or do. Families and friends need information and guidelines if they are to be helpful. In their recently-published fourth edition of Surviving an Eating Disorder (Fourth Edition; Harper Perennial, 2021), Michele Siegel, Judith Brisman, and Margot Weinshel walk loved ones through everything they need to know to help their loved one with an eating disorder, taking into account the latest developments in knowledge about the condition as well as the culture at large. In my interview with Dr. Brisman, we discuss why eating disorders are so complex to understand and treat and key strategies for engaging the suffering person that are helpful and supportive. Judith Brisman, Ph.D. is a psychologist and psychoanalyst in private practice in Manhattan, New York. She is former director of the Eating Disorder Resource Center and serves as editor for the journals Contemporary Psychoanalysis as well as the journal Eating Disorders. She is also faculty at the William Alanson White Institute. She is internationally known as one of the first in her field to develop a treatment program for patients with bulimia, and she has published and lectured extensively regarding the interpersonal treatment of eating disorders. Eugenio Duarte, Ph.D. is a psychologist and psychoanalyst practicing in Miami. He treats individuals and couples, with specialties in gender and sexuality, eating and body image problems, and relationship issues. He is a graduate and faculty of William Alanson White Institute in Psychiatry, Psychoanalysis, and Psychology in New York City and former chair of their LGBTQ Study Group; and faculty at Florida Psychoanalytic Institute in Miami. He is also a contributing author to the book Introduction to Contemporary Psychoanalysis: Defining Terms and Building Bridges (2018, Routledge) and has published on issues of gender, sexuality, and sexual abuse. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices Support our show by becoming a premium member! https://newbooksnetwork.supportingcast.fm/psychology

Dr. Judith Brisman will be featured on MINDBODYRADIO talking with Chris Sawyer at 10 am about What Goes Wrong When we Want to Eat Right!

Each week Kaila Prins meets with the experts in fitness, nutrition, health at every size, eating disorder recovery, addiction, and more to chart the path toward self-esteem and body positivity. In this episode of her “Finding Our Hunger” podcast, she talks with Dr. Judith Brisman, discussing the following and so much more!

  • Why your #DiscoveryNotRecovery is like a kaleidoscope
  • How orthorexia becomes a way to stop listening to your body
  • The importance of “not-knowing” in #recovery
  • Why we don’t see images of “real eating” in the media

Today, Dr. Judith Brisman joins Kathy Cortese LCSW to talk about parents and eating disorders. Specifically, they review 3 different cases, and Dr. Brisman offers her advice for parents in these situations.

Parents and friends—Dr. Brisman, author of Surviving an Eating Disorder: Strategies for Family and Friends, will discuss how you can best set the stage for recovery when someone you love is in trouble with food. What can you say, what should you do if you are worried? Dr. Brisman will discuss what works, what doesn’t… and why.

Dr. Judith Brisman and ​Laura Collins Lyster-Mensh, MS will discuss the role of parents in the treatment of eating disorders.  Parental involvement is always needed but not everyone agrees as to what that involvement should look like and how it can fit into the work of a treatment team? Please join us for an interesting discussion about what works with parents, what doesn’t… and why.