Thierry Vincent

Anorexia Publication date : October 1, 2000

This is not a book about how to treat anorexia, but an examination of the reasons for the increasing number of cases of anorexia in contemporary western societies. Although anorexia has existed for centuries, it was not widespread until the end of the nineteenth century. What happened in western societies to cause this and related disorders (such as bulimia) to develop? Could these disorders be the clinical expression of a new type of social unease, as was hysteria in the nineteenth century? With the help of psychoanalytic theory, the author has succeeded in highlighting the aspects of contemporary culture that have undergone radical changed: the relationship between people and objects (one of the results of economic globalisation), attitudes about gender differences, and the fear of death. How are these new factors present in the symptoms of anorexia? Aren’t anorexics simultaneously the reflection and denunciation of attitudes implicit in our relationship with the world around us? On a subjective level, don’t anorexics emphasise the current crisis in basic beliefs? Perhaps the search for new ways of treating anorexia should depart from an examination of these questions.

Thierry Vincent, a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, is the medical director of the university health centre Georges Dumas, in La Tronche, near Grenoble, where high school and university students suffering from eating disorders are treated.