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November 1988

Fasting Girls: The Emergence of Anorexia Nervosa as a Modern Disease

Am J Dis Child. 1988;142(11):1160. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1988.02150110038015

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The historical roots of any illness provide an important link to the present context in which it is expressed. This could not be more true than in the case of what some believe to be a modern epidemic: the eating disorders, anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa.

Indeed, the incidence of eating disorders has risen dramatically over the past two decades. There may be no other psychiatric disorder that represents such an interesting confluence of variables from the sociocultural, familial, individual, and biologic arenas. Equally fascinating is the role that sociocultural attitudes concerning women's physical appearance seem to have in this phenomenal increase. It cannot be understated that culture has a primary determining role in the presentation of these disorders.

Joan Brumberg, the Director of the Women's Studies Program at Cornell University, offers a well-researched and thoughtful contribution in her book, Fasting Girls, regarding the historical aspects of anorexia nervosa. Brumberg

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