New Philosopher

The philosophy of anorexia

I am a psychiatrist who has specialised in the treatment of anorexia nervosa for more than fifteen years. During that time I have had the honour of assisting many brave people negotiate their recovery from this deadly and tormenting illness.

I also have a longstanding interest in philosophy and the philosophical considerations that have come to my attention while treating this illness.

Firstly, although there are well-documented problems with the philosophical stance of dualism, in clinical practice I have found it helpful to separate brain from mind.

I tell my patients about the effects of starvation on the brain, which we know about from the Minnesota semi-starvation study, conducted in the 1950s by Ancel Keys. In this study, thirty-six healthy men were put on rations until they lost twenty-five per cent of their body weight. As I explain to my patients, all these men developed symptoms

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