"Confronting viewing" indeed

Why is it that I see this scene in my head so often when I see eating disorder literature and news coverage?



I'm not "confronted" by Amy’s Story at all. What she is doing and saying is completely understandable and harrowing - and not her fault. What is "confronting," and where the slap above needs to land, is on those who are failing this young woman. This beloved daughter has a horrible mental illness that requires treatment, and not the treatment she's getting. Her parents have been given wrong information. Her therapist is sadly mistaken. The journalist is, it seems, willing road kill in this narrative of "control" and tragedy.

That news story is everything that needs to be re-examined and sharply rebuked about eating disorders: that patients are choosing their symptoms and should be followed along helplessly as they do so, that these symptoms have some sort of deeper meaning that we as a society need to change, that anorexia is a fear of being a "fat cow," and that anorexia is only notable of public attention when it has depleted a human being of all visible flesh.

What should have, and could have, been an expose of a failed treatment model is instead a piece that will further confuse and frighten families seeking help. I call on all those reading this to contact that channel to calmly and firmly protest this piece and ask for a retraction and follow up. I am.

Comments

  1. I find this video sad and upsetting. I'd like to correspond with the channel but am not clear on how to do that. Do you have contact information you can post?

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  2. http://sixtyminutes.ninemsn.com.au/feedback.aspx?sectionid=5562&sectionname=contactus&formid=2363

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  3. Ah, the media. Gotta dislike them sometimes/often. Select a worst case scenario (at least in terms of degree of terms of emaciation) and play maudlin music to sensationalise the film.

    I feel sorry for Amy. When she hopefully gets better she may be very sad that she agreed to be filmed when she was clearly very sick. Parts of the video are difficult for me to watch because, well, it reminds me to much of how I was in my teens.

    I don't know of anywhere in the video where it is stated that Amy is 'choosing' her symptoms (?)

    I don't feel that the therapist is entirely incorrect. A proportion of anorexic patients have OCPD symptoms pre-AN, as well as OCD. There is lots of literature describing this, including that of Walter Kaye and/or Janet Treasure. The problem is that starvation magnifies these co-morbid difficulties many fold - such that the person becomes almost robotic and hellbent on being in control. Thus, control is pertinent for some suffered during the illness and that is what the therapist is describing.

    Amy had been in treatment centres four times previously. Presumably she gained weight in treatment then lost it thereafter. The all important question is how do these clearly very caring parents encourage their daughter to continue to eat and/or to hand over the control of her eating to them?

    It bugs me when people say that AN is not about control. For some people it doesn't feel that way, but for me it did. When I was sick my behaviours had everything to do with control. Not control of others for the sake of it, but endeavouring to control my anxiety and mood swings. The latter were very much part of the starvation response but they were overwhelming and disabling.

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  4. Perhaps I should use my computer rather than my phone to post comments... Sorry about the typos above. My iPhone uses predictive text if I type an error - and I cannot re-read the comment easily before sending...

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  5. What do you want from the show? I'm not arguing, just asking. I agree with you completely about the piece--I felt sick for everyone involved--but it's someone's life, not just a few outdated phrases. How do you retract something like that?

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  6. Cathy

    I think what has upset me so much (and I watched it yesterday and have still not got over it) was the hopelessness of both Amy and her parents and the crass dewey-eyed condescencion of the interviewer.

    I wanted to fly to Aus, wrap Amy in cashmere blankets and feed her back to a state whereby she could usefully use the therapy.

    That was car crash television at its worst and I feel that Amy has been violated in some bizarre way.

    I do understand that eating disorders need to be brought to the public's attention but how can they justify always wanting to see someone at their worst, not when they are recovered?

    Once again, seriously mentally ill people are put on television, much as they opened Bedlam on a Sunday for people to walk round and gawp.

    Ok, I am very cross now.

    I have emailed 60 minutes but am too cross to email the psychotherapist who, after four years, seems to have made little impact with helping Amy towards recovery,

    xx

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  7. Cathy, by letting a patient continue to be underfed, to organize her life and her family's life by AN's rules, by treating her as if these behaviors are acceptable is, in effect, treating them as a choice. In my opinion patients in this situation need their providers, their families, and society to treat them as unable - not unwilling - to take care of themselves. Just as we would a person walking blindly into a street or under the influence of drugs.

    What do I want this station to do? Just what they would do if they discovered they had run a piece on cancer treatment that turns out to be based on something entirely without medical basis and in fact dangerous - because the effect of such a piece is to allow thousands of people to endure similar care without their family knowing that this is NOT the only option, and isn't a good option.

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  8. Hi Charlotte

    I disliked the film also. It was typical sensationalised 'Oprah-like' stuff. Amy must have consented to be filmed, but as I said above, she may regret it when she is hopefully better. She shouldn't have been put in that position.

    Many people will watch this for voyeurism. Unfortunately many people seem to like viewing or hearing about others' tragedies. It's as you say: car crash stuff. And, the presenter hadn't a clue. The therapist was describing the traits of AN. I wasn't saying that she was doing a good job as a therapist. We don't know anything other than what we see in this short film.

    But I keep on asking the question: how does a parent encourage a reluctant child (legally adult or still child age) to eat, however loving and caring they are? I feel for the parents oftentimes. They may try their hardest, but still have no impact... That is the question I would like an answer to...

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  9. Cathy,

    It's simple and it is hard. For me it had to do with:

    Offering no other option
    Seeing each meal as as serious and obligatory as a dose of chemotherapy
    Viewing the resistance as fear - not recalcitrance
    Offering no other option

    Families do this all the time, believe it or not. Sucessfully. Just as patients comply in the hospital because they have no other choice, so do patients at home - but only if the parent is willing and able to offer no other option.

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  10. Hi Laura, I have just responded to Charlotte, as you will see. I don't know whether you two imagine that I thought the film was OK? I made it clear (I thought...) that I felt sorry for Amy and that I felt she'd been taken advantage of.

    This sort of TV is typical 21st C TV/media. Tragic life stories, often with no constructive solution to the problem. Just misery and hopelessness. I despise it too.

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  11. Thanks Laura. We're commenting simultaneously so I was typing another comment when you posted the last one.

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  12. Cathy

    I am beginning to understand how hard it is for a sufferer to eat. I now, as a parent, mother and someone who loves my daughter, take away the option of not eating as that seems to help my daughter.

    I am also working on helping her cope with the anxiety that is dominating her life now that she does not have the option of restricting as a way of coping.


    I have no doubt that we are winning and will not stop until we do.

    That is not an option that has been given to Amy's parent who, in my humble opinion, are not helping Amy but asking Amy to make the decisions about her own nutrition, which must be nearly impossible for her to make. Any sufferer who recovers whilst having to make the impossibly hard decision about what to eat, when, has me on my knees in awe.

    I still remain cross with the psych and even more with the interviewer who had not done even the slightest research. Imagine saying to the grips of someone in anorexia "Oh you eat more than I thought you would" and then, with fake wide-eyed innocence saying "I thought I was being helpful". Would she say to a cancer sufferer "Your tumor is not as big as I thought it would be, considering the amount of fuss you are making"

    Grrrrrrrrr

    Cathy, I know you and I speak the same language and I know your concern is that everyone is different and that you worry that sufferers may not have their underlying anxieties/co-morbid conditions/depression addressed merely by re-feeding but can I assure you that the Feast position is not just re-feeding but re-feeding to a level of weight whereby the sufferer can then rationally and reasonably begin to work through and address any and all underlying problems that may have fuelled/caused (alongside the weight loss) their eating disorder.

    I am off to bed (doning my bedsocks, mittens and wooly hat!). It is cold here.

    xx

    Charlotte

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  13. As someone who is recovering I tried to watch this and ended up wanting to skip my snack.

    I wonder why they need to clearly choose the sickest individuals when they do this kind of show. It feeds into the belief of the public that someone with an ED MUST be visibly emaciated to be ill and that severity is correlated with weight. Although there is definately a relation between severity and weight I wouldn't say this is entirely black and white.

    From what I saw, she certainly requires some kind of inpatient help and her BMI must be near about 12 -- why can they not forcibly hospitalize her? In Canada, they can hospitalize adults at a BMI of 11 -12 I believe. . .

    Also WHY is this therapist treating her?????? Therapists usually have a threshold BMI for what is acceptable to treat someone as an outpatient. My therapist will NOT try individuals that are this sick simply because therapy is useless.

    A:)

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  14. Just let her die, then I don't have to listen to her whinge. Her poor family, my feelings are for them...not that little PD cow. Some-one should hand her a razor blade so she can do it quicker and put us all out of our misery of tolerating her existance!!!!

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  15. A:) They choose the sickest-looking individuals because this is TV and many people are drawn in by the 'shock factor'. It's symptomatic of life in the 21st Century and many people's compulsion for voyeurism. As Charlotte above said, it's 'car-crash TV at its worst'. It's Victorian freak show stuff, and the producers know it.

    The producers probably thought that having a healthier looking person talk about their recovery from AN wouldn't draw the same audience.

    The only vaguely positive thing that comes out of this film is that it emphasises to the public that AN is indeed a serious mental illness and not just a silly little girl (or boy) being a rebellious 'brat'. The way that AN is associated in the media with 'celebrities weight stories' only serves to glamourise AN. There was nothing glamourous this girl's suffering.

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  16. Anonymous (last),

    I cannot fathom what could make someone so cruel and so thoroughly disconnected. I'm leaving your comment to remind myself that such cruelty exists and such responses exist - but I must also say how very wrong you are and how witheringly wretched you must be.

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  17. I missed Amy's Story because I was at an important function in my recovery life -- that of attending the 4th birthday party of my eldest grandson. However the next day I went to the dentist, the pharmacy, the grocery store, the library -- everywhere I went, people were asking: 'Did you see that Anorexia story on Sunday night?'. 'It was scary,' they said. Bridget has provided the link (thank you, Bridget), so I have now looked at Amy's Story and I agree totally with Laura's views, and also with Cathy's view that this sadly is what the media (especially TV media) does -- it wants the visual impact/the shock-horror value, and cares about little else.... The aim is to entertain, not to inform or educate. As an Aussie, I am angry, very angry; but I am not surprised. This is the media in the 21st Century. At least we have our on-line support group; at least WE are on the right track. We must put our shoulders together and push on, determined to break through the barriers and achieve the same respect and support for eating disorder sufferers that is afforded to cancer sufferers.

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  18. I am saddened but not amazed at Anon's comments. It is fairly typical of the sort of uneducated,ill-bred response that I have heard levelled at the Jews by Hitler, the Serbs to the Croats, the Romans to the Christians - oh it is too boring to continue.

    Some people are so small-minded they cannot look beyond their conception of "normality" and realise that they have nothing worthwhile to contribute to society. Sadly their level of intelligence is so low that they do not understand this, or, indeed, much else.

    In future, anon, why don't you just stay in your little box and don't come out to play with the grown-ups.

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  19. Happy Birthday to your Grandson June!

    I haven't had time to watch the "show" (and that's what it sounds like to me) but would be interested to hear the journalist's response. Having taken a very small part in the filming of such a TV programme, I'd also be interested to know what ended up on the cutting room floor. In the show I witnessed being filmed at least 3/4 of the footage ended up on the cutting room floor, including interviews with a CBT specialist and a consultant psychiatrist. The result was a better documentary than many, and one participant really feels that it was helpful in her recovery but it certainly wasn't a rounded description of the whole picture of her care and all the professional and carer input.

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  20. I haven't watched this video yet, but I wanted to say that I have a problem with the way some of the sickest people have been sensationalized in the media and still are struggling. I do feel that there is a bit of danger in giving negative attention to anorexic patients because part of the disease can pertain to the desire for attention and care and also it is very easy for an anorexic person to embrace and embody their disease as who they are, even more so when after being publicized others recognize them for their illness more than as a person.

    I also feel that care for anorexia is so delicate that we need better success rates before exposing sick people with eating disorders to the media. If we had more solid evidence that successful care would be provided after a patient takes such a risk as to expose their darkest secrets to the whole world, then perhaps it wouldn't be such a risk, but as it stands now, I think that there has to be a different way to spread awarness, without giving a face and name to the illness.....anorexia has many faces, one face for every person effected by it.

    As for the anonoymous person who commented, Im sorry you are hurting so much. There is only one place that your level of anger comes from, and that is from deep deep hurt. I hope you get the help you need so that you can communicate your hurt in a different way. Im sure you are far crueler to yourself than you are to any other person, and i hurt for you and all the other people you have attacked in an attempt to hide from your real feelings.

    Laura, be well, keep up the good work.

    Laura, im still trying to get help, but i cannot get group therapy because it is only offered through employers. Iam now 97 pounds and 5'9 and i need to find out about if there is anyway I can get scholarship. I cannot get a job that will offer benefits because things have gotten critical. I haven't given up yet but i really want to.

    Be Well everyone and if anyone can help me figure out how to get a scholarship or grant so i can get inpatient, i would be so grateful. I dont care if i have to go to a different state, i will take all the help they give me, I will embrace it all and use it to get better, i want to get better more than ive ever wanted anything.

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  21. Having been on a show like this, Montel williams, they are in it for the ratings only, we did it because our insurance ran out and we got free treatment out of it, they shoot hours of film, but only use the heart wrenching stuff, they don't show how the families really are working hard and doing everything they can, they make it seem as if the parents are tired and ready to give up, which at times we are, but they are uneducated in ED and I would never do it agian, our s is fully recovered, but I feel so bad for amey and her family, in one way they where exploited and my s does face embarrasement from being on that show, we moved and started over where no one knows is back story, really is tragic and brought back way to many memories, I really hope they get the much needed help they need

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  22. this video was so hard for me to watch, as im still very much in the grips of anorexia. I can relate to Amy in so many ways, i have failed 'traditional' treatment and have had 10 admissions in the past 7 months.

    As an anorexic, i feel as if people just assume that we have total control over the disorder, but deep down i know that this is horribly wrong! It's like having a constant voice in your head, and once its decided on what to do, there is no changing or going back. It's like when your body tells you that you're tired - you sleep. except for us, we restrict or stop eating all together.

    I too, like Amy, can see the logical side of this disorder. i know how much harm its doing to my body. but still, i have to be monitored to make sure i drink water, as my anorexia tells me that it will make me put on weight (even though i know there are no calories in water!)

    i really wish there was more help and better treatment options available in Australia!

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