History of Eating Disorders -
What is it?
A condition involving serious problem behaviors regarding food is called an 'Eating Disorder', leading to adoption of harmful food habits. It may be of any type - under-eating, over-eating, vomiting of food after meals, or even taking extreme steps to prevent weight gain by way of excessive exercise or laxative abuse. Two most common types among these are anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. Teenage girls and women are commonly seen suffering with this disorder, but also found in people with psychiatric disorders like depression and anxiety disorder. In such cases, poor nutrition harms body organs, leading to death in some extreme cases.
History of Eating Disorders -
The history of the disorder dates back to many centuries. Scholarly works in the last few decades show that different periods in history have seen numerous cases of acts of voluntary self starvation in different cultures due to combinations of various social and economic factors leading to anorexic behavior. Anorexia Nervosa is of recent origin (later part of 19th century).
In the Hellenistic Era, there were reports of willful overeating or voracious hunger by the male hermits renouncing the material world and also a group of wealthy Roman ladies.
As the Roman Empire fell, cases of voluntary fasting reduced. During "Dark Ages", with frequent famines, plagues, wars, three cases anorexia were reported, two of them of young women.
During the Renaissance, anorexic behavior reached alarming proportions especially in Southern Europe, in the wealthy urban areas. Holy Anorexia, starvation for religious reasons was adopted by women who were conferred sainthood during the period between 1200 and 1600 A.D. Later, as Reformation redefined European values, holy Anorexia greatly declined.
19th century saw many cases, and Leseque and Gull described Anorexia Nervosa. During the Industrial Revolution, more women joining labor force suffered this disorder.
In 1982, women usually coming from poor families claimed to starve without nourishment, sparking off debate between the church and the scientific materialism, acquired international fame as 'miracle maids'.
Anorexia cases decreased during World Wars and depression and again increased during late sixties. Bulimia Nervosa and a different motivation of the disorder emerged (fear of becoming fat) at the turn of the century.
It can be seen that over the centuries different social factors have influenced the people's psychology thereby resulting in different frequencies of the disorder. The disorder was not seen much when food was scarce, but only after the economy recovered.
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