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October 2021

Anorexia nervosa as viable behaviour: extreme self-deprivation in historical context

Author(s): Woods, S. C.

Journal/Book: Hist Psychiat. 1999; 10: Halfpenny Furze-Mill Lane Chalfont St Giles, Bucks, United Kingdom HP8 4NR. Alpha Academic. 205-225.

Abstract: When anorexia nervosa is considered from a critical historical perspective, several key features emerge. For one, striking similarities can be found between the sociocultural milieux of medieval fasting women and modern anorexics. Although the presentation of self-starvation has changed over the centuries, the syndrome can still be identified and shown to flourish during eras and in societies in which individuals (mainly women) lacked adequate attention, control, respect and/or economic power, and when a socially acceptable avenue for expression existed. In this context, the steady increase in the incidence of anorexia nervosa over the last fifty years is seen to parallel specific cultural and economic events that favoured thinness.

Note: Review Woods SC, Univ Cincinnati, Dept Psychiat, Med Ctr, Box 670559, Cincinnati,OH 45267 USA

Keyword(s): CHILDHOOD SEXUAL EXPERIENCES; TERM FOLLOW-UP; EATING DISORDERS; BULIMIA-NERVOSA; FAMILY-INTERACTION; WOMEN; EPIDEMIOLOGY; POPULATION; ANORECTICS; ATTITUDES


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