Dialogues in Philosophy
Mental and Neuro Sciences

Dialogues in Philosophy, Mental and Neuro Sciences

The official journal of Crossing Dialogues
Volume 9, Issue 1 (June 2016)

The hysterical anorexia epidemic in the French nineteenth-century
Sara Valente
The official birth of hysterical anorexia is attributed to the French alienist Ernest Charles Lasègue (1816-1883). Starting from his 1873 article, anorexia as a ‘new’ psychopathological picture is subjected to extensive clinical and theoretical study. This paper is not an analysis about the process through which anorexia was formalized as specific psychiatric condition. Rather, it focuses on another important issue: the possibility that the ‘same’ disorder may have different
meaning depending on the historical period considered.
Furthermore, it is asserted that the study of every pathological form is conditioned by social, individual and cultural conditions. For example, in the same year the English Sir William Gull publishes a paper about “anorexia nervosa” which is described in a different way depending on the different perspective.
Laségue’s description is a way of seeing a kind of sufferance, that is he ‘sees’ this pathology through the hysterical paradigm.
Starting from these considerations, this article discusses the construct of ‘hysterical anorexia’
trying to understand why, in late nineteenth century France, hysteria and anorexia were viewed as two aspects of the same specific disorder. Finally, it is discussed why anorexia gradually emerged as an independent mental disorder just after the death of Charcot (1893).
Ernest Charles Laségue, hysterical anorexia, history of psychiatry, anorexia, hysteria
Dial Phil Ment Neuro Sci 2016; 9(1): 22-23
Received on May 10, 2016
Accepted on May 10, 2016
Firstly published online on June 19, 2016