A journal article on psychology and eating disorders suggests that the Peter Pan Syndrome and weight loss parallelism may stem from Peter Pans creator himself: James M. Barrie. The article explores the possibility that author James M. Barrie might have been anorexic during his childhood and adolescent years.
Peter Pan Syndrome and weight loss
Peter Pan Syndrome is a metaphor used to describe men who refuse to face adulthood. In terms of weight loss, the same metaphor also applies. Peter Pan Syndrome refers to people with anorexia who, much like Peter Pan, refuse to grow out from a tight self-perception. Anorexic individuals are also said to possess the fantasy of flight and an idealization of weightlessness. This idealization is related to Peter Pan’s ability to float or fly in the air, which seemingly assumes the figure of a sylph or a weightless ballerina. Most psychologists describe anorexics as being possessed with such narcissistic fantasy and idealization.
James M. Barrie- Possibly Anorexic
The sole character of Peter Pan might not be the only metaphor we can relate to weight loss; the author of this fictional character may also contribute to the comparison. Psychologists and researchers speculated that Barrie might have suffered from anorexia during his childhood years and that he might be expressing this (though indirectly) through his stories or writing. Experts who probed on this possibility suggest that his physical status and condition when he was a child was suggestive of anorexia nervosa. As a child, Barrie was described to be poorly clad and frail, this suggests that Barrie might have appeared extremely thin compared to other children. In his twenties and thirties, Barrie was described to look like an adolescent wearing a fake moustache. Although one physician believes he might have suffered from delayed puberty due to glandular deficiency, psychologists, however, have another take. According to them, it is possible that Barrie’s condition is undetected anorexia nervosa. His small or thin stature and the seemingly delayed maturity of his body is said to be attributed to childhood and adolescent onset of anorexia. Psychologists say that this type of anorexia may cause irreversible physiologic changes such as stunted growth, and delayed puberty and sexual maturation.
Further evidence is the psychological history of Barrie. At age six Barrier’s older brother (13 years old at that time) died from a skating accident. The death of his brother led to an immense mourning reaction from his mother, who refused to eat and just stayed in bed for almost a year. This event sparked an intense desire from Barrie to replace his brother David. But the replacement occured in an odd way: Barrie seemingly became David exactly the way he was until the day he died. That is, he became the fourteen year old David, the boy a couple of years from puberty who was deeply attached to his mother. Experts suggest this strong motif and attachment might be a strong psychological drive to remain youthful and eventually “not to grow up at all”.
No Conclusions Yet
Although psychologists probe on the possibility that Barrie was anorexic and that his psychological history might be the primary motif for why he wanted to remain in a “delayed growth state”, experts who proposed this concept are not conclusive. Diagnosing an eating disorder from written stories and psychological history do not serve as heavy evidences. But they are conclusive with the fact that these reveal a common theme which can be related to weight loss and anorexia.