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Anorexia nervosa: Through a developmental, not mental, lens


Anorexia nervosa most commonly presents between 12 and 21 years of age in relation to an individual experiencing the transformation of puberty from girl-to-woman or boy-to-man, of identity from child to adult, of autonomy from childhood to adulthood, and of brain maturation from subcortical to cortical control. That is, in relation to the developmental processes of adolescence. Framing anorexia nervosa as a psychiatric illness has resulted in a focus on individual psychopathology, despite family based treatments suggesting an "agnostic" approach that avoids blame. Reframing anorexia nervosa in terms of normal adolescent processes go awry due to social-emotional vulnerability, rather than to mental illness, offers a strength-based approach that can build on the intra-and inter-personal assets of individuals and their families while also recognizing these vulnerabilities as modifiable.

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