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Low Self Esteem And Eating Disorders Essay

2211 words - 9 pages

What is Self-Esteem...

Self-esteem has recently been defined by Silverstone as "the sense of contentment and self-acceptance that stems from a person's appraisal of their own worth, significance, attractiveness, competence and ability to satisfy their aspirations" (Silverstone 1992). Self-esteem is the degree to which a person values and respects themselves, and is proud of their accomplishments. Self-esteem begins to develop in childhood, but it solidifies and gains momentum during the turbulent and trying years of adolescence. The teenage years tend to be a crucial "make it or break it" period when it comes to self-esteem because it is at this time that youngsters are searching for an identity. If this process goes awry, the teen is likely to have negative feelings about the self, leading to a low sense of self-esteem. Many recent studies have provided evidence that disruptions in the formation and stability of one's self-esteem can lead to various psychological problems, such as eating disorders.

Are Low Self-Esteem and Eating Disorders Related?

Although it is often thought of as only an "anecdotal contention that low selfesteem is a trait of eating disorders" (Wilfiams 1993), this fact has been empirically proven time and time again. With the use of various questionnaires and inventories, researchers such as Schupak-Neuberg, Rosen and Button have found that low self-esteem occurs very commonly in patients with eating disorders. In some cases, evidence for this relationship is so strong that it is even thought by some researchers that chronic low self-esteem is a necessary prerequisite for disordered eating (Silverstone 1992). A profile of self-concept components that are characteristic of low self-esteem are insecurity, negative mood and depression, poor body image, feelings of inadequacy, social and personal withdrawal, poor adaptation skills, and unrealistically high aspirations (Steinhausen 1993). All of these traits are seen fairly consistently in patients with eating disorders.

In addition, patients with eating disorders also exhibit other traits associated with low self-esteem, such as problems with their overall self-image, excessive concern over weight and shape, and globally negative attitudes about their self-control and discipline (Button 1997). The methodology for the research leading to these conclusions about low self-esteem and eating disorders typically involves elements such as questionnaires examining eating behavior, self-esteem and general psychological well-being (such as the Offer self-image questionnaire), depression and self-esteem scales (such as the Rosenberg self-esteem scale and the Hospital anxiety and depression scale), personal interviews with doctors, psychologists and researchers, and finally tests designed specifically for eating disorders (such as the Bulimia test and the EAT-40).

Low self-esteem plays a prominent role in many multifactorial theories of the etiology of eating disorders. ...

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