Dialogues in Philosophy, Mental and Neuro Sciences

Official Journal of Crossing Dialogues

Dialogues in Philosophy, Mental and Neuro Sciences

The official journal of Crossing Dialogues

Volume 10, Issue 1 (June 2017)


Anorexia Nervosa as nervous affection

Samuel Fenwick

Samuel Fenwick (Earsdon House 1821-Kensal Green 1902) was a gastroenterologist of the Victorian age. His interest in anorexia nervosa derives from his studies on the diseases of the stomach and digestive organs, published in On the atrophy of the stomach and on the nervous affections of the digestive organs (1880).
In this book, from which the present article is taken, he presents theoretical reflections and clinical observations of anorexia nervosa. In Fenwick's view loss of appetite can depend on several diseases of digestive functions, but it is rare that it is the unique symptom. Rather, it often depends on more general anomalous conditions of the nervous system.
Fenwick is probably the first scholar asserting that the fasting girls of the Middle Age suffered of mental illness. He presents a history of anorexia and criticizes Gulls (apepsia hysterica) and Laségue's (hysterical anorexia) definitions of this morbid condition, while agreeing with the other term used by Gull, that is "anorexia nervosa".
Fenwick's contribution is particularly interesting because his approach differs significantly from the other British physicians that studied anorexia following Gull's approach. While they mainly focused on medical issues related to anorexia, without contextualizing this syndrome in a broader historical and psychopathological framework, Fenwick discusses anorexia in relations to its history, giving space to theoretical reflections and not only to the description of clinical cases.

anorexia, eating disorder, clinical cases

Dial Phil Ment Neuro Sci 2017; 10(1): 26-34

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