1. MLKerrick
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    MLKerrick Member

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    Depression and Anorexia

    Discussion in 'Research' started by MLKerrick, Mar 23, 2011.

    In my story, there's a woman just past forty who's been afflicted with severe depression for the past eleven or twelve years. She walks about in a daze, has little to no interest in the goings-on of her teenaged daughter (although she pretends she does to maintain some semblence of normal parenting in her actions), and smokes. She does not drink. How would this woman be affected, physically? How would the depression and smoking warp her face and body, not to mention her body language?

    The aforementioned teenaged daughter is seventeen and has been anorexic since she was fifteen. Same question for her: How would she be affected by anorexia? I know she'd be weak and sickly, but how much so?
     
  2. marina
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    marina Contributing Member Contributor

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    The anorexia, drinking, severe depression--it all reminds me of the poet Anne Sexton who committed suicide at age 46. Anyway, I'd avoid writing her as if she walks about in a stupor 24/7 and never shows an interest in anything. That's all a bit too melodramatic and boring. She should have her up days & down days, even with the severe depression. And her up days might be consumed with something that she's fanatical about (as is what happened with Sexton).

    Her physical appearance will depend on how anorexic she is--there is no one "look" for anorexia. I wouldn't think the fact that she smokes would warp her face and body. The anorexia might cause her to have sallow, dry skin, and sunken eyes. Perhaps she has lost quite a bit of hair due to it.

    It would really be pretty much the same with the daughter, but again, depending on how malnourished she has become.

    And if you want to see an example of masterful writing and insightfulness about an anorexic teen, go read Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson.
     
  3. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you are going to write a book about it you need to do your homework. Do some real research. Pick up books on the subject, and visit online support group forums for both the patients themself and family and friends. You will need more then surface knowledge, a deeper understanding is necessary for a good book.

    Edit: You probably have people in you life that have been struggling with both diseases, perhaps you can talk with them about their experience.
     
  4. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    My husband suffers with severe depression - we call his worst phase his Rip Van Winkle period he took to his bed for a year, his hair grew and getting him into a shower was a trial (getting him out again was just as hard).

    When my Mum went through it she also pretty much took herself to her bed, we ended up with a dog addicted to nicotine and alcohol (she would sit there breathing in the second hand smoke and sharing sips of whatever beverage) dog was more fussy though only did brandy and whisky. Mum is violent on whisky, melancholic on gin, brandy she is silly and giggly etc What is she smoking - just cigarettes ? Depends on her metabolism - my Mum had a stroke at 50 but her lungs despite having smoked for 40 years showed little blackening and little furring of the arteries. When her sister died it was similar she had the lungs of a 21 year old despite having smoked most of her life.

    Anorexia - unnaturally skinny, bad breath, dry skin and hair. Is she bulimic as well ? They don't always go hand in hand. Aches, pains, fatigue, feeling the cold more, foggy brain, slower reactions. Often an anorexic will be on a drug combination as well. Then as it progresses the major organs like liver start to shut down. Periods stop.
     
  5. Thanshin
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    Thanshin Active Member

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    If depression was easy to see, there'd be much fewer suicides.

    If smoking warps your face, you're holding the cig the wrong way in.

    At most, smoking can stain your teeth. But drinking coffee will too, and you wouldn't ask "How would drinking coffee warp her face and body.".
     
  6. art
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    art Contributing Member Contributor

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    Smoking does some pretty predictable things to skin elasticity and so on and inveterate smokers can be readily spotted by those who deal in such matters.

    Depression is often very easy to spot. The spotting of it is usually not the problem. Arresting it is. Depression is not readily fixed.
     
  7. Thanshin
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    Thanshin Active Member

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    Ok. I never heard about that. Let me do a quick search...

    "Smoking and skin: A study of the physical qualities and histology of skin in smokers and non-smokers: KNUUTINEN Anina; KALLIOINEN Matti ; VÄHÄKANGAS Kirsi; OIKARINEN Aarne;
    Department of Dermatology, University of Oulu, Oulu, FINLANDE

    Tobacco smoke is toxic to cells and could be a factor contributing to accelerated skin ageing. The aim of this study was to provide new information on the possible effects of smoking on the physical qualities of skin and the morphology of elastic fibres. The study population consisted of 98 men, including 47 current smokers and 51 never-smokers. Skin thickness and elasticity were measured from cheek, temple, abdomen, dorsal forearm and non-sun-exposed upper inner arm. Verhoeff-stained punch biopsies from the non-sun-exposed upper inner arm were assessed with a computerized image analyser in a blinded fashion to assess the amount and width of elastic fibres. The thickness of cheek skin was increased in the smokers, but skin thickness in other measured sites did not differ between the groups. The amount and width of elastic fibres in the sun-protected skin of the smokers and non-smokers did not differ significantly, nor did skin elasticity in this or any other region under evaluation, suggesting that smoking alone affects neither the amount and width of dermal elastic fibres nor the elasticity of skin in male smokers.


    I'm hungry so I won't search serious data about that now, but I must say I've known very recently one case of depression that nobody could spot before he displayed serious suicidal tendencies and was hospitalized.
     
  8. art
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    art Contributing Member Contributor

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    I could find a lot more to that end (and have in the past for other purposes.). The central point is clear: smoking messes with your appearance.
     
  9. Thanshin
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    Thanshin Active Member

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    Yes, you're right. If someone is interested in this topic, this article exposes a very detailed investigation about the topic.

    Having said that. Exposure to sun also has a very strong effect in skin elasticity, so if you really want to describe how smoking warped the face and body of your character, consider also described how sun did the same or more warping (unless your character is a vampire or a basement dwelling nerd).

    Doing otherwise, will make a lot of your readers immediately think you must be north american.

    (Oh, I'm gonna make so many friends with that comment...)
     
  10. art
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    art Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yeah. That's always a danger.;)
    A good time to remind young folks that smoking does make you look very cool.

    Where are you from Thanshin?
     
  11. Thanshin
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    Thanshin Active Member

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    Spain.

    Here, most of us quit smoking when they forbid doing it in the bars and pubs.

    :D
     
  12. art
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    art Contributing Member Contributor

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    Your English is depressingly good...:)
     
  13. Thanshin
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    Thanshin Active Member

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    Oh thanks. You should hear me trying to speak what I write. :)

    I learned by reading so I have about the same idea of how these words sound as an Egyptologyst reading "bird, serpent, strange guy, fire".
     
  14. Kio
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    For depression, I suggest you read "The Bell Jar" by Sylvia Plath. It is a wonderful read that I did for school. I'll never forget it because it really portrayed depression through someone else's eyes, despite the fact that I am usually in a moderately bright mood.

    How long has she been smoking? Long-tern smoking usually includes bad breath, yellow teeth, possibly lung cancer, a raspier voice... a lot of medical complications that I can't think of.

    For anorexia, you're lucky because my class and I have just covered this. I'll tell you what I remember:

    Those who are anorexic tend to have control issues. As in, they like to be in control of things, particularly their body weight. As they cut down on food, they will develop symptoms of OCD such as cutting up their food into tiny pieces and calculating their calory intake. Whenever they look in the mirror, they do not see what is in front of them; they will actually see that there is something wrong with their weight. They usually can't see that they are too thin and, even if you tell them, there is a high chance of them denying what you are saying because they truly believe that they are fat.

    There are two types of anorexia: there is the the one that constantly restricts herself from food and there is the other type that binges and purges-- keep in mind that this is NOT bulimia nervosa. Bulimia nervosa is similar to it though. You can't be anorexic and bulimic at the same time. They have different types of symptoms. For instance, those who are bulimic are usually of average of above-average weight, unlike those who are anorexic.

    I hope this helped. Good luck :D
     

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