Anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. When the pursuit of bodily 'perfection' becomes a killer

Postgrad Med. 1996 Jan;99(1):161-4, 167-9.


Eating disorders probably result from a combination of emotional, physical, and sociologic factors and are encouraged by a society that values appearance as a measure of worth. Once believed to be a problem largely among young women, the disorders are being found increasingly among children, young athletes, men, and elderly women. Often accompanied by depression, anxiety, and personality disorders, eating disorders may be difficult to diagnose. Patients with anorexia nervosa often deny that they have a problem, despite obvious physical signs. Patients with bulimia nervosa may hide their binging and purging and have no overt signs. Primary care physicians may be the first to suspect potential problems, including a patient's fixation on food, weight, dieting, physique, and exercise. Sometimes, patients who have struggled in silence for years turn to their trusted physician for support and understanding. The first step in treatment is to address the medical complications caused by the unhealthy eating habits. Once nutritional health has been restored, patients need to reverse their entrenched and distorted body-image ideas through psychotherapy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anorexia Nervosa* / diagnosis
  • Anorexia Nervosa* / etiology
  • Anorexia Nervosa* / psychology
  • Anorexia Nervosa* / therapy
  • Bulimia* / diagnosis
  • Bulimia* / etiology
  • Bulimia* / psychology
  • Bulimia* / therapy
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychotherapy
  • Sex Offenses