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Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2016 Jan;18(1):10. doi: 10.1007/s11920-015-0641-6.

The Disjointed Historical Trajectory of Anorexia Nervosa Before 1970.

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Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Department of Psychiatry, Institute of Medical Science, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto, 1001 Queen Street West, Toronto, ON, M6J 1H4, Canada.
Graduate and Academic Affairs, Faculty of Medicine, Campbell Family Mental Health Research Institute, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, M5T 1R8, Canada.
Eating Disorder Community Treatment Program, Toronto General Hospital, Toronto, ON, M5G 2C4, Canada.


Responses in pre-modern eras to anorexia nervosa (as now understood) varied widely, from religious piety and sanctity through fear and superstition. While noting briefly the limited conceptualizations from pre-modern history this article is primarily focused from the late 19th century, commencing with helpful but tentative formulations of anorexia nervosa for early-modern medicine that were laid out, consistently between themselves, by Les├Ęgue, Gull and Osler. Yet that promising biomedical advent was superseded for more than a half-century by deep, internal divisions and bitter rifts that festered between three medical disciplines: neurology; Freudian psychotherapy; and Kraepelinian biological psychiatry. Mid-20th century developments preceded the 1960-1980s' improved understanding of suffering and movement toward effective remediation introduced by Dr. Hilde Bruch.


Anorexia nervosa; Eating disorders; History of psychiatry; Neurology; Psychiatry; Psychotherapy

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