The Behavioral Treatment of Anorexia Nervosa

  • James Ferguson


Anorexia Nervosa is one of the first physical disorders for which a psychological etiology was attributed. In his initial case report of Nervous Phthisis in 1684, Richard Morton described an 18-year-old patient who “fell into a total suppression of her monthly courses from a multitude of cares and passions of her mind.” Following this, “Her appetite began to abate, and her digestion to be bad; her flesh also began to be flaccid and loose, and her looks pale, with other symptoms usual in the universal consumption” (tuberculosis). By the time she applied to him for treatment, she was very thin. “I do not remember that I did ever in all my practice see one that was conversant with the living so much wasted with the greatest degree of consumption, (like a skeleton only clad with skin) yet there was no fever, but on the contrary a coldness of the whole body.” He describes her hyperactivity, vomiting, self-neglect, and the only temporary success of his prescriptions of various medications. Finally, “she beg’d that the whole affair might be committed again to nature, whereupon consuming every day more and more, she was after three months taken with a fainting fitt, and died” (39).


Weight Gain Anorexia Nervosa Eating Disorder Behavioral Treatment Positive Reinforcement 
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© Spectrum Publications, Inc. 1981

Authors and Affiliations

  • James Ferguson

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