The main character Nina Sayers has a sever eating disorder. In her attempts to be the perfect ballerina, she is both anorexic and bulimic. She does not eat anything and if she does she later throws it up. For example, for breakfast she was forced to eat a grapefruit but is later shown in the bathroom throwing it up. When she gets the part in the play she worked so hard for, her mother buys a cake in celebration – only to be put to waste since Nina refuses to eat it. In the movie, she provides an example of what can happen when an eating disorder completely takes over.
She becomes so pleased with the positive feelings she feels when she looks at herself in the mirror, that she only tries to love her image more. This habit begins a downward spiral into eating less and less. In The Black Swan, Nina is portrayed as the best dancer of her company. Until some competition, Lily arrives and Nina views her as a huge threat. This causes Nina extreme stress and she develops the idea that Lily is out to get her and take her position as best dancer. Since extreme starvation of the body leads to cognitive distortions, threats are commonly amplified.
Nina feels extremely threated and like her spot as best dancer is at risk. She then feels even more of a need to have the perfect body and to be a perfect dancer. Since she does not eat enough, her brain and body do not receive appropriate amounts of nutrients. The lack of nutrients puts her in a state of high stress and her brain does not think clearly or logically. It distorts her surroundings giving her a warped image of herself when looking in the mirror. She sees herself as much larger than she actually is. She compares herself to everything and everyone around her.
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Not only does her eating disorder hurt her mentally but also it physically affects other parts of her body. When feeling the urge to eat, she claws at her skin on her back where it can be covered by clothes. Nina’s fingers are also covered with bandages to conceal her skin she carelessly peals away. The thought of becoming a perfect ballerina literally begins to kill her. Although Nina never sought help, there are plenty of ways she could have. Cognitive-behavioral therapy or group therapy would both have been very helpful for her situation.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy focuses on current behavior rather than childhood or past experiences. The therapists typically address ways their patients should change the way they think and behave, assign homework, and offer strategies of how to change them for the better. Group therapy also would have been an effective way to treat Nina’s eating disorder. If she went to group therapy and saw that other people were going through the same thing as her and got better, it would have encouraged her that she could do the same.
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