Carter, Catherine Section of Eating Disorders, Institute of Psychiatry, King's College, London, United Kingdom.
Kan, Carol Section of Eating Disorders, Institute of Psychiatry, King's College, London, United Kingdom.
Treasure, Janet Section of Eating Disorders, Institute of Psychiatry, King's College, London, United Kingdom.
Last reviewed:February 2018
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A psychiatric disorder in which a dramatic reduction in caloric intake consequent to excessive dieting leads to significant bodily, physiological, biochemical, emotional, psychological, and behavioral disturbances. Anorexia nervosa is one of three formally recognized major eating disorders (the other two are bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder). It is a serious illness that can drastically affect the health of those individuals suffering from the disorder (Fig. 1). The phrase "anorexia nervosa" was originally coined by the eminent English physician William Gull in 1874 in his description of a series of four case studies of young women with deliberate weight loss. Around the same time, the French physician Charles Lasègue postulated that the deliberate starvation was driven by a neurosis originating from a desire to avoid pain. In the latter half of the twentieth century, environmental and cultural explanations became central to etiological explanations of anorexia nervosa, in line with the Western cultural ideal of thinness. More recently, much research has centered on biological and genetic factors underpinning the illness. Despite these developments, there are still many unknowns concerning anorexia nervosa, and a definitive etiology and treatment strategies are yet to be established. See also: Eating disorders; Mental disorders; Psychology
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