From Religious Fanaticism to Loss of Appetite

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”Spirituality – When is it Unhealthy?”


Dear Dr. Gelb:

My son spent last summer abroad where he was exposed to some religious indoctrination. After his return home, that influence prompted him to want to be removed from life and everyday experiences. This went on for about three months, and luckily he grew out of his fanaticism and now he continues his spiritual quest but keeps his feet on the ground. I know of some other kids who aren’t as fortunate as my son, and have not outgrown destructive indoctrination. How can this conditioning be prevented.


A: Dr. Gelb says . . .

Dear Earthbound:

It is so unfortunate when rapid indoctrination of spiritual or religious concepts motivates a fanaticism, not unlike what you describe. The participants’ fear that if they do not adhere to what they have been introduced to then heaven is unattainable.

As children develop, it is natural for them to reach out and explore the meaning of life and parents need to be so careful not to allow their children to participate in fly by night introductions to spirituality and religious concepts. I believe that parents must be the indoctrinators of the science of religion and this exposure must be planned and considered carefully. This is why parental control and vigilance is so important to childrearing.

”Eating – Why Has it Lost its Appeal?”

Dear Dr. Gelb:

I have battled overeating for years, but since my dog died a few months ago I have lost my appetite. Everything tastes like cardboard. I appreciate the weight loss, but why do I feel like there is no point in eating?


A: Dr. Gelb says . . .

Dear Tasteless:

If the natural process of grieving losses and expressing anger safely and constructively is not utilized, then suppression of emotion can cause one to feel depressed. By this I mean that the system shuts down and many things can lose their appeal, including food.

In such instances, sharing one’s feelings with a caring friend can be helpful. Some people have also gained relief via assistance from a competent mental health provider to resolve the grief and anger about a particular loss. Then lost appetites tend to return and if weight loss is desired, more appropriate means to accomplish this need to be sought.

Dear Readers:

Today’s answer can be supplemented with excerpts from “Yesterday’s Children” (Q2: p. 40) written by psychologists Marti Barham, R.N., Ph.D. and Tom Greene, Ph.D. For more information visit my Web site at

”’Suzanne J. Gelb, Ph.D., J.D. authors this daily column, Dr. Gelb Says, which answers questions about daily living and behavior issues. Dr. Gelb is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Honolulu. She holds a Ph.D. in Psychology and a Ph.D. in Human Services. Dr. Gelb is also a published author of a book on Overcoming Addictions and a book on Relationships.”’

”’This column is intended for entertainment use only and is not intended for the purpose of psychological diagnosis, treatment or personalized advice. For more about the column’s purpose, see”’ “An Online Intro to Dr. Gelb Says”

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