The Neuroendocrinology of Anorexia Nervosa

  • M. J. Devlin
  • B. T. Walsh
Conference paper
Part of the Current Topics in Neuroendocrinology book series (CT NEUROENDOCRI, volume 8)


The syndrome of anorexia nervosa, with its striking juxtaposition of psychological and physiological features, has, since the earliest clinical descriptions (Morton 1689; Gull 1874; Lasegue 1873) eluded a comprehensive and integrated understanding of etiology and pathophysiology. Clinical thinking about anorexia nervosa has largely proceeded along two somewhat divergent lines: the first, originating with Simmonds’ report in the early years of this century of a wasting syndrome associated with pituitary lesions in a postpartum woman (Simmonds 1914), has directed itself toward the uncovering of a primary central nervous system abnormality which gives rise to anorectic behavior; the second, advanced by such clinicians as Bruch (1973) has concerned itself with the detailed description of patients and their typical family backgrounds, intrapsychic conflicts, and cognitive distortions. As work has continued, it has become increasingly clear that consideration of both psychological and physiological aspects of the illness is essential, and that there is likely to be no simple unifactorial etiology. To complicate matters further, a marked increase in the incidence of anorexia nervosa over the past decade (Herzog and Copeland 1985), along with the progression of the related syndrome of bulimia from psychiatric “zebra” to everyday occurrence on college campuses (Zuckerman et al. 1986), has not only underscored the importance of epidemiologic and sociocultural analysis in attempting to understanding eating disorders, but has added a rapidly increasing clinical incentive to the already compelling theoretical interest which anorexia nervosa has always inspired.


Luteinizing Hormone Anorexia Nervosa Eating Disorder Thyrotropin Release Hormone Neuroendocrine Abnormality 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. J. Devlin
    • 1
  • B. T. Walsh
    • 2
  1. 1.College of Physicians & SurgeonsColumbia University and Research Fellow, New York State Psychiatric InstituteNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.College of Physicians & SurgeonsColumbia University and Research Psychiatrist New York State Psychiatric InstituteUSA

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