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Med Humanities 28:3-8 doi:10.1136/mh.28.1.3
  • Original article

Qu'un souffle de vent: an exploration of anorexia nervosa

  1. S Giordano
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr S Giordano, The Institute of Medicine, Law and Bioethics & Centre for Social Ethics and Policy, IMLAB/CSEP, The University of Manchester, Williamson Building, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PL, UK;
 giordano_simona{at}hotmail.com
  • Accepted 16 January 2002
  • Revised 7 January 2002

Abstract

The spread of anorexia nervosa, especially in Western developed countries, is reaching alarming proportions. According to the International Classification of Diseases, the central feature of anorexia nervosa is “deliberate weight loss”. This means that anorexia nervosa is a progressive pursuit of lightness. Moving from this observation, I ask why so many people want to lose weight, why some would die, rather than put on weight. In order to understand what value these people attach to lightness, I look at contexts where lightness is typically celebrated (music, literature, and arts) and provide an analysis of anorexia nervosa, using both theoretical reflection and empirical observations. This analysis shows that anorexia is much more than a pattern of psychiatric symptoms, and much more than unintelligible behaviour. Anorexic behaviour is instead meaningful and coherent behaviour, and expresses ethical values that are deeply rooted in Western culture.

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