The differences of anorexia mirabilis and anorexia nervosa

Anorexia mirabilis is literally defined as “miraculous lack of appetite” and was an ascetic practice that was performed in the Middle Ages. While anorexia mirabilis and anorexia nervosa are a form of self-starvation, there is a difference between the two in the reasoning behind this sacrifice.

It has been established that people who indulged in the anorexia form of Mirabilis did so for very different reasons than those who indulged in the nervous version of anorexia. In this health guide, you will be introduced to the differences between these two eating disorders.

Anorexia Mirabilis in the Middle Ages

Anorexia mirabilis or “holy anorexia” was practiced among women in the Middle Ages who fasted for the love of God, as well as to show that there was a separation between body and spirit. These periods of fasting were said to last for months and some women refused to eat except to eat the Holy Eucharist.

In anorexia mirabilis, women believed they could live without food because they believed they could survive on “God’s delicious banquet.” These women were idolized for their “ability” to live on very little food. It wasn’t until Victorian times that women began to starve for the sake of appearances.



Anorexia nervosa today

Many years later, during the Renaissance period, the church began to think that anorexia mirabilis was heretical and perhaps even the work of Satan, yet it was still practiced by some almost until the 20th century, which is when a well-known physician English determined that it was a disorder and gave it the name “anorexia nervosa.”

Anorexia nervosa is the self-starvation of food by individuals who feel they need to look a certain way for society. These individuals starve themselves because they have a distorted image of their body believing they are overweight when in fact they may be dangerously thin. Today, the eating disorder of anorexia is mainly due to pressures from society and the desire to be slim. In the Middle Ages, anorexia was accepted and even admired as a form of religious practice.

Written by Anne Ahira

September 8, 2020
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