Handbook of Eating Disorders: Physiology, Psychology, and Treatment of Obesity, Anorexia, and Bulimia

By Kelly D. Brownell; John P. Foreyt | Go to book overview

12
Anorexia Nervosa:
History and
Psychological Concepts

Michael Strober

Although the condition has been known to medicine for centuries, scientific interest in anorexia nervosa has increased with dramatic suddenness in recent years.14 This chapter reviews the historical underpinnings of the modern-day concept of anorexia nervosa and discusses its descriptive and psychopathological features, epidemiology, and etiology.


Historical Antecedents

Literary accounts of self-inflicted starvation and weight loss can be traced back to the Middle Ages. A detailed review of this literature may be found in William Hammond's monograph, Fasting Girls: Their Physiology and Pathology, published in 1879.24 Several cases are intriguing. A Leichester nun (circa 1225) claimed to have ingested nothing but the eucharist for seven years. Learning of this report, the Bishop of Lincoln dispatched fifteen clerks to her bedside to observe without interruption for fifteen days, whereupon the fast was indeed confirmed. Liduine of Schiedam, a female saint living in the fourteenth century, is said to have existed for years on nothing but "a little piece of apple the size of a holy wafer." The physician Bucoldianus, writing in 1542, described the case of Margaret

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