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Anorexia Athletica

Anorexia Athletica

Eating disorders in athletes

It has long been recognised that there is a higher than normal prevalence of eating disorders in athletes and a great deal of research has been done in this field. The term 'Anorexia Athletica' has been used to define a sub-group of athletes with eating disorder symptoms that do not permit a diagnosis of Anorexia Nervosa or Bulimia Nervosa and would therefore fall within the boundaries of Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS). Whilst not a formal eating disorder it might be surmised that individuals to whom the term anorexia athletica could be applied would have an eating disorder categorised under EDNOS.

Technically, Anorexia Athletica should refer only to female athletes but tends to be applied to either gender.

Anorexia Athletic gains recognition 

The term Anorexia Athletica was first used in the 1980s by

  • N.J. Smith in the article Excessive weight loss and food aversion in athletes simulating anorexia nervosa, published in Pediatrics in July (1980 66(1) pages 139-142)
  • Pugliese M.T., Lifshitz F., Grad G., Fort P. and Marks-Katz M. in their article Fear of obesity. A cause of short stature and delayed puberty published in The New England Journal of Medicine, September 1983 (volume 309 page 513-518)

The term has since come to be used, rather loosely, in some quarters to simply refer to compulsive exercising.

There is much information and research available on the internet for anyone wishing to look into Anorexia Athletica further, for example the 1994 paper by Sundgot-Borgen, Risk and trigger factors for the development of eating disorders in female elite athletes.

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