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The (im)possibilities of the feminine: Sexuality of women with eating disorders from the perspective of female adolescents, their mothers and their fathers

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Carolina Leonidas
Total Authors: 1
Document type: Doctoral Thesis
Press: Ribeirão Preto.
Institution: Universidade de São Paulo (USP). Faculdade de Filosofia, Ciências e Letras de Ribeirão Preto (PCARP/BC)
Defense date:
Examining board members:
Manoel Antonio dos Santos; Lazslo Antonio Ávila; Rodrigo Sanches Peres; Egberto Ribeiro Turato; Terezinha de Camargo Viana
Advisor: Manoel Antonio dos Santos

Eating disorders (ED) are characterized by severe disturbances in eating behavior, which may result in biological, psychological and social prejudices. Prevalence is significantly higher in female gender and symptoms start mainly during adolescence, coinciding with the psychosocial transition that marks this stage of vital cycle and the intensification of sexual experiences. From the perspective of psychoanalysis, ED can be understood as somatic responses to emotional tension triggered by mental processes that could not be symbolized. This difficulty of symbolization seems to be related to the adolescent\'s impossibility to individuate, which would require an adult´s woman body and mind. Psychic fusion and the resulting anxiety from separation of the mother figure is also related to the unconscious representations of femininity: the eruption of sexuality in adolescence leads the girl to grieve for her child body, and also her child\'s parents, which are being left behind. Starting from the premise that the symptom of food refusal may be regarded as an unconscious defense used to obliterate the process of separation-individuation, which is an inherent part of emotional development, the present study aimed to investigate the development of sexuality and femininity in women who developed ED, from the perspective of patients, their mothers and their fathers, seeking to establish links between these fundamental aspects of subjective constitution and the symptoms that characterize the psychopathological condition. It is a collective case study, descriptive and cross-sectional, with qualitative approach. Participants were female adolescents and young adults with ED, linked to the Group of Assistance on Eating Disorders (GRATA), from the Clinics Hospital of the Faculty of Medicine of Ribeirão Preto, University of São Paulo (HC-FMRP -USP), and their parents (parental couple, interviewed separately), totalizing seven oedipal triads. The instruments used for data collection were: semi-structured interviews, applied individually with each member of the triad consisting of daughter-mother-father; field diary, prepared by the researcher during data collection; and Brazilian Economic Classification Criterion/2015. Interviews were audio-recorded for later transcription and thematic analysis. Data was be interpreted with the support of the theoretical framework of Joyce McDougall´s psychoanalytic psychosomatic. Results showed that the triads´ psychic dynamic included mother-daughter fusion, and father´s detachment. Mothers and daughters perceived femininity as equivalent to vulnerability and source of distress. Fathers were frightened by their daughters´ femininity, which made them distance themselves. Daughters´ difficulties regarding reaching genitality was evident, and was associated with difficulties of individuation and separation from the parents from childhood. This study provides input into clinical practice with regard to the relationship between the experiences related to sexuality/femininity and symptoms of ED, providing a more comprehensive understanding of the psychological aspects related to sexuality by the professionals involved in care, prevention and health promotion in adolescence. (AU)

FAPESP's process: 12/23854-2 - (Im)possibilities of the feminine: The sexuality of women with eating disorders from the perspective of female adolescents, their mothers and their fathers
Grantee:Carolina Leonidas
Support Opportunities: Scholarships in Brazil - Doctorate