Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Anorexia nervosa-Etiology, Anorexia nervosa-Treatment, Eating disorders in women, Self psychology, Systemic therapy (Family therapy), Family systems, Theoretical


Anorexia nervosa is a life-threatening psychiatric disorder that has increased in diagnostic prevalence over the last century. Findings suggest that individuals at greatest risk are females between the ages of 15-22, who demonstrate heightened levels of perfectionism and a need for control. This theoretical thesis hopes to provide clinical social workers and other mental health professionals with a deeper understanding of the psychological, familial, and developmental factors contributing to the onset of the disorder in order to increase the effectiveness of future treatment. Self-psychology will be examined to offer a possible developmental and psychological framework for understanding the emotional challenges and distorted thought processes of the anorexic patient. Bowen's adaptation of family systems theory will be used to support the resilience and strength of the patient's family unit by uncovering and addressing dysfunctional patterns. The aim of this thesis is to suggest that approaching treatment for anorexia nervosa through the synthesized lens of self-psychology and family systems theories may help address the multifaceted and deeply engrained aspects of this complex disorder.




94 pages. Thesis (M.S.W)-Smith College School for Social Work, 2014. Includes bibliographical references (pages 85-94)