What Do We Really Know About Mental Illness?

September 14, 2022

(The New Yorker) – When Rachel Aviv was six years old, she stopped eating. Shortly after, she was hospitalized with anorexia. Her doctors were flummoxed. They’d never seen a child so young develop the eating disorder, yet there she was. Was it a response to her parents’ divorce? Diet culture? Innate asceticism? The episode remained mysterious. While Aviv made a full, relatively speedy recovery, she developed a lifelong interest in the borderlands between sickness and health. In her new book, Strangers to Ourselves: Unsettled Minds and the Stories That Make Us, Aviv wonders whether she ever truly had anorexia at all, or whether the episode was perhaps too hastily pathologized.  While she moved on from her bout of disordered eating without seeing it as a fixed part of herself, the girls she lived with in treatment—older, more self-aware—did not shake it off. Instead, their identities were subsumed by the anorexia. (Read More)