Education And Debate

Commentary: Ambivalence toward fatness and its origins

BMJ 1997; 315 doi: (Published 20 December 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;315:1703
  1. Arthur Crisp (, emeritus professor of psychological medicinea
  1. a Psychiatric Research Unit, St George's Hospital Medical School, London SW20 0NE

At this distance the diagnoses cannot be absolutely certain, despite the extraordinary details Hugh Baron has so splendidly mustered. Anorexia nervosa is supposed to be a modern disease. I believe it has been around for a long time, probably ever since postpubescent humans were capable of contemplating their newly awakened adult destiny, experiencing it as unwelcome and linked to their recent growth. One response, then as now, might have been, through the mechanism of reversal of that growth, to eliminate the related burgeoning panic stemming from a sense of imminent alienation, disgrace, or longer term danger and decay. Then again, the condition is rare indeed in males, though one of Morton's two original case descriptions, which are almost certainly of what today we would call anorexia nervosa, was in a male subject.1

Byron undoubtedly had a persistent severe eating disorder. Moreover, it was clearly powerfully driven and maintained by his fear of …

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