Wednesday 20 September 2017

Allison Pearson: Yes, today's teenage girls are crippled by narcissism

Anorexia cases have doubled in three years as our teens find themselves living in a hall of mirrors, writes Allison Pearson

CONTROVERSY: Baroness Bakewell made comments. Photo: PA
CONTROVERSY: Baroness Bakewell made comments. Photo: PA

Allison Pearson

I have known five girls who became anorexic. One was a high-achieving perfectionist from a happy family, where the mother was as slender as a wand and neurotic about food. The second had an obese mother and a plump sister. A third girl was an only child whose parents had gone through an ugly divorce and whose beloved daddy had left the family home for a younger model. To my untutored eye, it looked as if the 15-year-old had chosen subconsciously to return to a time before puberty, to a childhood when things had been safe and her family whole.

The fourth girl was a gentle, bespectacled, bookish type who started secondary school and developed obsessive habits to deal with anxiety over her new workload. Her devoted parents looked on in horror as, each evening, their once carefree child took the scales and measured out the tiny amount of rice that had become her evening meal.

Finally, there is my friend's gorgeous, funny, big-boned daughter who got tired of being The Fat One in her friendship group of selfie-taking hotties. She lost weight. Felt giddy with delight at her achievement. Lost more weight. Started obsessively taking pictures of her new slender form and posting them on Facebook. By then, she was unable to see how frighteningly emaciated she was. You could cut yourself on her shoulder blade.

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