Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice

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Volume 65 Issue 1 (March 1992), Pages 1-88

Possible effects of the popular and medical recognition of bulimia nervosa (pages 59-66)

Historical changes in psychological symptoms are analysed not only from a social causation approach but also from a labelling perspective. Modern eating disorders lend themselves to such an analysis because of their historical variability. Effects of the introduction and dispersion of the psychiatric concept of ‘ bulimia nervosa’ at normal body weight and its propagation through the mass media are examined (relying on Devereux's model of ‘ethnic disorders’). Data of an exploratory interview study with 39 bulimic patients evaluated along these lines (a) indicate that the recognition of bulimia has facilitated seeking of professional and non‐professional help, (b) invite categorization of bulimic behaviour implying less self‐blame, (c) render imitation of bulimia more probable, and (d) covary with less secretive illness behaviour indicating a broadening of underlying motivations.

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