Anorexia and Bulimia Risk Factors Essay

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Anorexia and Bulimia Risk Factors Essay

Anorexia and Bulimia Risk Factors Essay

It is nearly impossible to walk past the aisles in stores without seeing headlines promising secrets to weight loss. Our cell phones are full of advertisements and videos of exercise routines. In the United States being thin has become a national obsession and places unrealistic expectations on what makes a female beautiful. To keep up with these expectations, females become dissatisfied with their bodies. With body dissatisfaction being the single most powerful contributor to the development of eating disorders, it is not surprising that these disorders continue to rise (Comer, 2015). The common eating disorders recognized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual are anorexia nervosa (AN), bulimia nervosa (BN), and binge eating disorder (BED) (APA, 2013). The focus of this paper is on the formally recognized eating disorders, anorexia and bulimia.  Briefly, these disorders are characterized by disturbances in body image and abnormal eating patterns. While the cause is elusive, today’s theorists and researchers believe eating disorders arise from the interaction of multiple risk factors. The more of these factors that are present, the likelier they will develop an eating disorder. Among these factors include biological, psychological, and sociocultural (Rikani, 2013). Anorexia and Bulimia Risk Factors Essay


Biological Factors

Studies have shown a genetic contribution to developing eating disorders (Fairburn & Harrison, 2003). Certain genes may leave some people more susceptible to the development of eating disorders and researchers suggest that these diseases are biologically based forms of severe mental illnesses. This has been further supported by twin and family studies. For each disorder the estimated heritability ranges between 50% and 83%, therefore there is a possibility of genetic contribution to eating disorders (Treasure et al, 2003).Anorexia and Bulimia Risk Factors Essay

Studies have also suggested role of serotonin levels since this specific neurotransmitter is important in the regulation of eating and mood (Fairburn & Harrison, 2003). Several studies have confirmed those suffering from anorexia nervosa measured lower serotonin levels and may be an indirect effect of eating disorders (Rikani, 2013).

Psychological factors

Around 73% of girls and females have a negative body image, compared with 56% of boys and men (Comer, 2013). Body dissatisfaction has been defined as “discontent with some aspect of one’s physical appearance” (Cash, 2012) and is a risk factor for developing an eating disorder (Stice, 2001). Furthermore, it “encompasses one’s body-related self-perceptions and self-attitudes, including thoughts, beliefs, feelings, and behaviors” (Cash, 2012). Research has measured as far back to adolescent years and how the onset of puberty could set the stage for their body image perceptions (Rikani, 2013). According to Treasure, Claudina, and Zucker (2003), most eating disorders occur during adolescence.  While females are more concerned about losing weight, their male counterparts are focused on the body image of needing to gain muscle. Additionally, female perceptions have been linked to negative body image and adolescent boys are likelier to have positive feelings about their bodies (Ata et al, 2007). Females ultimately feel discontent with the shape and size of their body at such an early age when they are forming their identities. Specifically, females are trying to fit into the image society has described as the ideal beauty of a woman, thus they become increasingly obsessed with disordered eating (Dittmar et al, 2009). In turn, they can suffer psychologically from low self-esteem, feelings of helplessness, and intense dissatisfaction with the way they look” (APA, 2013). Anorexia and Bulimia Risk Factors Essay

Body image and body dissatisfaction have been measured by examining cognitive components, such as negative attitudes about the body or unrealistic expectations for appearance and behavioral components, such as avoiding perceived body scrutiny from others (e.g., avoiding swimming) (Thompson et al., 1999b). Ata, Ludden, and Lally (2007) also found strong links between eating disorders and feelings of depression and low self-esteem.  Anorexia and Bulimia Risk Factors Essay

Sociocultural factors

Many sociocultural factors like friends and family can influence the development of eating disorders. “Research focusing on the particular effects of teasing on female adolescents found that those who are teased about their weight, body shape, and appearance tend to exhibit poorer body image and are more likely to diet” (Ata et al., 2007). Furthermore, adolescents who have a relationship with their parents that are less supportive and filled with conflict are more likely to choose disordered eating behaviors and have poor body image. In a survey of individuals with eating disorders, they included family factors such as, poor parental control, controlling parents, poor relationship with parent, critical family environment as causal factors with eating disorders (Salafia et al., 2015). Swarr and Richards (1996) found that adolescents who have a healthy relationship with both parents are less likely to have concerns about their weight. During this vulnerable stage of development, adolescents place a high regard to the approval of their peers. Supported evidence shows that those with lower peer acceptance and social support may be linked to negative body image  (Ata et al., 2007). Anorexia and Bulimia Risk Factors Essay

It is not surprising that body image has been an obsession in Western society for decades. The media has portrayed the continually changing concept of beauty through advertisements, social media, magazines, and television, in turn shaping society’s standard of beauty. Mulvey (1998) looked at the history of female beauty and the major changes in the female image over the years. The cinched waist was popular in the 1900’s, while being flat chested without curves were emphasized in the 1920’s. Throughout the 1930’s women were encouraged by societal standards to have curves and this emphasis continued through the 1950’s. Images of full figured women like Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor influenced the way women wanted to look (Mulvey, 1998). It was not until the end of this decade that the thin ideal began to decrease in shape (Rumsey). Women began to alter their bodies through plastic surgery in the 1960’s to reach society’s standards. It was during this time that the body type drastically changed into the depiction of being extremely thin and “boyish.” The immense pressure to be thin carried throughout the 1970’s and the rail thin image resulted in an increase in eating disorders, especially anorexia (Mulvey, 1998). Fortunately, that image did not last long and women were advertised as being fit and sporty throughout the early 90s, yet thin models and anorexia became rampant again at the end of this decade. Sadly, this image of thinness has continued throughout the 21st century. Anorexia and Bulimia Risk Factors Essay