Anorexia Athletica

It has long been recognised that there is a higher than normal prevalence of eating disorders in athletes, and indeed 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 or bulimia nervosa, and would therefore fall within the boundaries of 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 catagorised under EDNOS. Technically, anorexia athletica should refer only to female athletes but tends to be applied to either gender.

The term Anorexia Athletica was first used in the 1980s by NJ 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) and by Pugliese MT, Lifshitz F. Grad G. Fort P. Marks-Katz 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".


“I had consistently been losing weight for more than 8 months and had become accustomed to eating very little. This triggered a return of my anorexia, after a 20-year period of recovery. SWEDA were able to offer me an appointment the very next day. When we met I was feeling very ill and frightened.I spoke to them about my fears, but then took the decision to go to my doctor on the way home. I was admitted to hospital within a few days.”

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