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Bulimia Nervosa Essay

4285 words - 17 pages

Bulimia Nervosa

Within developmental lifespan psychology, eating disorders are often
categorised under the heading of 'adolescence problems' along with
suicide, delinquency, substance misuse and pregnancy. They are
particularly associated with females, especially during the
development stage of adolescence when one's physical, cognitive and
social development leaves childhood and enters adulthood (Seifert et
al, 1997: 333). It appears that young women are more dissatisfied with
weight than women at any other stage of the female lifespan. This is
due to an increase in awareness of their body shape and weight,
therefore accounting for the large majority of eating disorder cases
being adolescent females (90%) (Kayrooz 2001: 20). Problematic eating
behaviours are becoming a growing concern as the number of cases
increase (especially in the last 20-30 years) and especially as
younger age groups are being affected. Bulimia nervosa (bulimia) is
the most common eating disorder today. However it was only identified
as a disorder in 1979 when a rapid increase in the condition was
established (Gross, 2001: 657). Bulimia shall now be studied in
relation to psychological aspects, definitions, prevalence, symptoms,
complications, treatment and possible causes.

"Bulimia is a syndrome characterised by episodes of binge eating
followed by compensatory behaviour such as vomiting and purging, along
with other techniques to compensate for over eating" (Banyard, 2001:
88). Bulimia affects 1-2.8% of the population, yet it is estimated
that 20% of adolescent girls (2.5 million) exhibit less extreme
bulimic behaviours (Graber et al, 1994). However, Morris & Summers
(1995) highlight the difficulty in identifying the prevalence of
eating disorders due to the diversity in which these disorders are
defined and measured in research. The bulimic sufferer periodically
consumes huge amounts of food in short time spans, with little control
over consumption and with fearful thoughts about their inability to
stop. An average bulimia sufferer performs secret binges of 2,500
calories or more within a two-hour period, although reports range from
1,200 to 55,000 calories (Johnson et al, 1982). These binges produce
feelings of guilt, leading the person to purge, with this behaviour
often affecting work, social life, family and health. Other
psychologically straining problems include constant worry of being
discovered, continuing feelings of shame and the fatigue associated
with this particular eating pattern. According to Pinel (2003) bulimia
is considered to be a psychiatric, rather than medical condition,
characterised by abnormal eating patterns and obsessions with food and
weight. However, DSM-IV (1994) states four specific symptoms needed to
diagnose bulimia. They are recurrent episodes of binge eating,

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