Anorexia and Bulimia: The Jennette McCurdy Case, from iCarly

Photo of Jennette with an urn with glitter coming out symbolizing her mother's death
The author said she developed the disorder because of her mother’s strict diets and pressure from Hollywood. (Photo: Playback Jennette McCurdy)

iCarly star Jennette McCurdy detailed her battle with eating disorders in her memoir ‘I’m glad my mom is dead’, released this month. The artist said that she developed anorexia at age 11 due to a restrictive diet that her mother, Debbie, guided her to follow. According to the actress, she should be thin to get more work on television and in Hollywood.

Jennette’s account is reminiscent of the story of other pop culture stars such as Demi Lovato and Amy Winehouse. But in addition to stardom, image disorder also affects ordinary people.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), eating disorders affect 4.7% of the Brazilian population. In addition, young people are the age group with the highest incidence of these disorders, totaling 10% of Brazilian adolescents.

Jennette’s story

Like other child actresses, Jennette started working with acting at her mother’s encouragement to help with the household bills. She said that she never wanted to be a star and that this was her mother’s dream.

The McCurdys’ lives changed in 2007 with the debut of iCarly, a teen show that told the story of Carly and her best friend, Sam Puckett, who set up an online show. Jennette was a supporting character in the series and gained worldwide fame.

The actress’ personal life was in stark contrast to that of Jennette’s character on iCarly, known for her love of food and always eating.

Also, during filming, she reveals that she was coerced into drinking whiskey when she was still a minor. Years later, the artist developed alcoholism.

End of career and therapy

She left the profession in 2013, after the end of the spin-off of iCarly and Victorious, ‘Sam & Kat’, which played opposite Ariana Grande. Jennette had two years of intensive care and needed a lot of help to understand her trauma.

After Debbie’s death, Jennette says she had bulimia because she couldn’t stick to the diet her mother had taught her.

What is anorexia?

Anorexia is a self-image disorder that affects physical health and psychosocial behavior. In this case, the person sees himself in a different way than the mirror shows, as explained by psychiatrist Melina Efraim.

“There is a self-assessment unduly influenced by the shape of body weight. It’s as if the person could only have some value if they were very thin,” she says.

“This causes the patient to adopt some behaviors, such as not eating, to lose weight because of the disproportionate fear of continuing to gain weight”, adds psychologist Thales Vianna.

unconscious behavior

These image distortion characteristics are present from childhood in the life of a person struggling with anorexia. The psychiatrist explains that the anorexic behavior is unconscious in the patient.

“These are people who are extremely underweight and unable to eat. It’s an automatic: she just doesn’t eat and she can’t eat. It’s not just reaching out to her and telling her to eat that it gets better. No, it won’t,” she said.

Melina explains that there are several factors associated with the disorders and often they are related to psychotic symptoms.

Anorexia diagnosis

The diagnosis of anorexia is based on the analysis of health professionals to the patient and each case is different from the other. The disorder can be developed by several factors such as the cultural, social and psychological environmental.

“For example, if you go to France, where there is a cult of thinness in relation to food, you will have a much higher prevalence of anorexia”, comments Melina Efraim.

In addition, genetics are also decisive, which may be the case for Jennette, as her mother also struggled with the disease. “Studies show the presence of symptoms of anorexia in first-degree relatives, which has a strong hereditary basis”, explains psychologist Thales Vianna.

treatment for anorexia

The treatment consists of readjusting the patient’s body vision. Therefore, the psychologist points out that it is important for parents to be attentive to the behavior of children and adolescents so that, if anorexia is identified, the process can start as soon as possible.

In more severe cases, the patient must be hospitalized. But hospitalization must be voluntary to take effect.

In addition, Melina Efraim reinforces that the treatment should not be done with drugs to induce weight gain because it can cause a repulsion in the patient. “The person will abandon the treatment and will not take medicine. It’s like there’s a very intense disconnect between the person’s body and mind. The treatment has to aim to reconnect this. The person connecting to the body again sees himself as he is,” she says.

The psychiatrist explains that, in some cases, antidepressants can help with treatment. As well as antipsychotics can improve patients with cases of psychotic episodes related to anorexia.


Anorexia can lead to death from lack of nutrients in the body. At first, basic bodily functions such as organ systems such as menstruation and hair loss occur. In a more severe stage, the organism cannot work for lack of food and energy.

The psychologist adds that not all people who want to lose weight are anorexic. However, it is important to be aware of the behavior so as not to develop the disorder and seek help as soon as possible.

What is bulimia?

Bulimia is an eating disorder in which the patient induces vomiting or diarrhea, including the use of medication, in order not to digest the food he has consumed. It is also caused by image distortion and a fear of getting fat.

Anorexia and bulimia are not necessarily connected. That is, not all anorexics are bulimic and not the other way around. However, the treatment has the same goal: to readjust the person’s body image.

Despite being disorders within the same class, eating disorders, bulimia and anorexia have very different characteristics. “It is interesting to note that it is very common that there are obsessive and perfectionist traits associated with anorexia, unlike bulimia, which already has a more compulsive and impulsive trait”, he points out.

According to Melina, these differences in eating disorders influence the way the patient behaves in social centers. “Bulimia comes with a different personality that is more like a person. It is more sociable than her anorexia, sometimes it even goes unnoticed”.

In the case of bulimia nervosa, the patient has episodes of binge eating, which will occur at least once a week, followed by a feeling of lack of control and guilt. “Next, compensatory behavior, which could be through induced vomiting, diuretic laxatives or very prolonged fasting, strenuous exercise,” she says.

The treatment for bulimia is related to the patient’s compulsion and impulsiveness.

alcoholic anorexia

Like other stars who have struggled with eating disorders, such as Demi Lovato and Amy Winehouse, McCurdy developed a chemical dependency.

According to psychologist Thales Vianna, the disorders are related. “People start using drugs because they feel good and can interact, a number of things. It is likely that the drug or alcohol will ease the body disorder so that the person is able to have more disinhibition,” he explains.

Patients with anorexia tend to isolate themselves from social groups, which can lead to depression. “Alcohol serves as, at a given moment, a relief”, says the psychologist.

“The big problem is that alcohol is not a treatment for anything and the person uses the substance in an unruly way. Which, over time, sets up a chemical dependency”, he adds.

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About Banner Leon

Videogames entered his life in the late '80s, at the time of the first meeting with Super Mario Bros, and even today they make it a permanent part, after almost 30 years. Pros and defects: he manages to finish Super Mario Bros in less than 5 minutes but he has never finished Final Fight with a credit ... he's still trying.

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