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Anorexia Nervosa

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Anorexia Nervosa


Could you imagine being so afraid of food and the possibility of gaining weight that you would actually starve yourself? Food and eating are pleasures of everyday life we take for granted. Having the life of an Anorexic person fills you with the constant fear of one thing'.becoming fat.

Eating disorders such as Anorexia Nervosa are slowly gripping a part of the female adolescent to young adult population. Although, Anorexia Nervosa has only been public since the 1970's, records of the disorder go back as far as 1689. Thomas Morton, an English physician, studied subjects with a disorder he called the 'wasting' disease. He had two cases, which were very similar. One was an eight-teen yr. old girl and the other was a six-teen yr. old boy. Both subjects had similar symptoms. They both had a strong lack of appetite, sensitivity to coldness, and extreme sadness. The girl eventually starved herself to death; however, the boy did recover (Gordon 12-13).

Through out the centuries there have been many cases of girls 'fasting', and not due to religious purposes. In the 1870's the disorder became a topic of more medical concern. It happened around the time two doctors, Sir William Gull and Charles Lasegue, simultaneously published papers on a number of cases dealing with self-starvation (Alexander-Mott &Lumsden 101-102). Gull actually came up with the term Anorexia Nervosa, because he believed it was a nervous disease. Both doctors note four distinctive characteristics with each case. All of the patients experienced high levels of hyperactivity. Each of the patients denied the existence of the disorder. Also, they each had peculiar attitudes toward food. Finally, each patient had pathological family interactions (Gordon 13).

Years following Gull and Lasegue's discoveries, research continued on this peculiar disorder. Unfortunately for a long period of time Anorexia was confused with Simmond's Disease, an endocrine disorder. So, for awhile Anorexia sufferers were being prescribed the wrong medications, such as thyroid extracts (Gordon 14). Finally, in the 1930's the two disorders were distinguished between.

In 1973 a woman who trained in psychoanalysis, named Bruch, wrote a book on eating disorders. Bruch had previously worked for three decades with Anorexic and obese patients. She observed that Anorexics had three main characteristics. The first was a distorted body image, a misperception of fat. The second was the inability to identify needs, particularly hunger, but also the whole range of emotions. The last characteristic was a feeling of ineffectiveness, lack of self-worth (Matthews 30).

From Bruch's characteristics stemmed the guidelines brought forth by the American Psychiatric Association (APA). The first guideline was the refusal to maintain normal body weight. The second was an intense fear of gaining weight. The third was a distorted body image. Then the last characteristic was amenorrhea (Alexander-Mott & Lumsden 107).

There are many ideas and theories on what causes Anorexia Nervosa. From a psychological standpoint, it is thought that Anorexia stems from childhood and adolescent experiences. It is known now that most Anorexic patients come from families with overprotective parents who pushed them to live up to unachievable goals or perfection. The Anorexic person believes that their weight and eating habits is one of the only things they have control over (Matthew 31-32).

Another theory from a social aspect has to do with the way women are perceived in society. It is believed that since beautiful women are portrayed ...

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