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Psychopathology as Social Construction: The Case of Anorexia Nervosa

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Changes to definitions and theories of psychopathology result less from scientific advances and more from changes in social and cultural values. Herein, the historical and contemporary diversity in definitions and theories of anorexia nervosa is used to illustrate this point. First, we offer a discussion of diachronic diversity (diversity over time) and synchronic diversity (diversity at a given point in time) in conceptions and theories of psychopathology in general. Second, we elaborate a social constructionist perspective on psychopathology in general. Third, to illustrate this perspective, we provide a diachronic and synchronic analysis of definitions and theories of anorexia nervosa. Fourth, we discuss the implications of this analysis for clinical practice. We conclude that whatever view eventually prevails will depend not on which one is better at rooting out some hidden truth about anorexia nervosa but, rather, on which one is viewed as more compatible with evolving social and cultural standards, views, and norms regarding health and illness in general and self-starvation in particular.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of History, Society and Human Studies, University of Salento, Lecce, Italy, and Department of Psychotherapy Science, Sigmund Freud University, Vienna, Austria 2: Department of History, Society and Human Studies, University of Salento, Lecce, Italy 3: Department of Psychology, George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia, USA

Publication date: April 3, 2015

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