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Developing an Eating Disorder
Why is it that people develop eating disorders? There is no simple explanation, and no one answer that applies everyone. There are several types of eating disorders, but the most prevalent in adolescent and young adult females are anorexia nervosa and bulimia (Larocca, 1986). There are six main areas that potentially explain just why it is that people succumb to anorexia and bulimia. These factors are biological, psychological, family, social, cultural, and media (Siegel, Brisman & Weinshel, 2002).
One of the factors contributing to the development of anorexia and bulimia is biological. To some extent, it has been proven that temperament can be genetically determined. (Siegel, Brisman & Weinshel, 2002). This can easily be observed if a person looks at two children coming from the same parents and how different from each other they can turn out.
“Biological factors that appear to play a role in the development of bulimia are a predisposition to depression and factors related to having a weight and shape that do not conform to the ideal standards promoted by society. These factors are for the most part due to heredity” (Sherman & Thompson, 1990, p. 63).
Also, a person whose parents have a low metabolism and were predisposed to be on the heavy side will likely produce offspring of the same physical kind. This can lead to a daughter having a higher set-point weight than she will be content with, and finding it more difficult to lose weight and be as thin as she would like. Not surprisingly, anything that increases the liklelihood of having a higher weight and decreases the likelihood of being able to lose weight and keep it off should increase the probability of developing an eating disorder (Sherman & Thompson, 1990).
Some personality types are more prone to eating disorders than others, these being intrinsic, like for example obsessive-compulsive and sensitive-avoidant. Current research suggests that genetic factors predispose some people to anxiety, perfectionism, and obsessive-compulsive thoughts and behaviors.
“People with a mother or sister who has had anorexia nervosa are 12 times more likely than others with no family history of that disorder to develop it themselves. They are four times more likely to develop bulimia” (Larocca, 1986, p. 26).
Bulimics tend to display the following personality traits: low self-esteem, need for approval/dependency, low tolerance for anxiety and frustration, compulsiveness, irresponsibility, histrionic (lively, dramatic, even theatrical) expression, and decision-making difficulty (Sherman & Thompson, 1990).
It is important to note that once a person begins to starve or purge, those behaviors in and of themselves have the power to alter brain chemistry and prolong the disorder. For example: both under eating and overeating can activate brain chemicals that produce feelings of peace and euphoria, thereby temporarily...