What's your anorexia nervosa story

The history of anorexia nervosa and other eating disorders

Anorexia nervosa means something like "nervous loss of appetite". However, this definition is not very good because it is based on misunderstandings. People who suffer from anorexia nervosa have anything but a lack of appetite, they are simply afraid of gaining weight. Therefore the expression "self-starvation" would be more appropriate, or better expressed: "weight phobia".

Anorexia nervosa is more common now than it was a century ago. There are several reasons for that:

  • The lean ideal has become "modern", an ideal that is supported by almost all media. This leads people to believe that this is the perfect look and the right way to live. Many try different diets, one at a time, and inadequate dieting methods are the most common trigger factor for starting an eating disorder. More information.
  • Modern technology helps us so much that we no longer have to exert ourselves as physically as we used to. Most of the work is done while sitting. People compensate for their reduced need for food by eating less and / or eating healthily.
  • The media is very focused on sport and exercise, which can lead to an extreme focus on one's own body and an almost unattainable body ideal. More information.

It has been shown that eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa are more common in countries where such causes are more present in daily life.

Anorexia nervosa was described for the first time in 1684, but it was not really recognized until 1870 and was given its own diagnostic name. The birth of this "new" disease was not only related to the new way of looking at medicine, but also an effect of changes in society and the new ideal for young women. The history of anorexia nervosa is partly a consequence of the culture in which we live and partly a consequence of the social structure of our society.

Although anorexia nervosa has long been known to psychologists and behaviorists, the public first learned about the disease and its nature at the end of the 20th century. It wasn't until the early 1970s that the US media began to write about anorexia. In 1974 the media reported that young women refused to eat without really showing how serious the disease can get. In 1984, on the American television show "Saturday night live," the presenter began to crack jokes about the disease and suggested what an anorexic cookbook might look like. Today we know how serious the disease and its course really are. More information.

In 1978, after almost three decades of clinical experience with anorexia nervosa, the psychologist Hilde Bruch published a book about the disease. "The Golden Cage" "The golden cage"], as the title of the book was, is based on 70 real case studies, mostly testimonies from young women. When the book was published, Bruch said the disease was so common that it had become an immense problem in most American colleges and universities.

In the 1970s, a study based on clinical research showed that anorexia is a disease that is directly related to the culture in which we live. This means that it is most common in the western world and is heavily dependent on the factors described above.

During the 1980's and to this day, a large amount of literature was published on anorexia nervosa (and on bulimia nervosa, a disease related to anorexia), and numerous scientists have published research on the disorder. Today there are many clinics around the world, with specialized psychologists and psychiatrists, to help patients with anorexia nervosa.