Anorexia Nervosa Research Paper Sample
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Nasser (2013) defined Anorexia Nervosa as a type of eating disorder characterized by food restriction defined by peculiar eating habits or practice, obsession with having and maintaining a thin figure. In addition to the odd eating pattern, Anorexia Nervosa is also defined by a distorted body self-perception that technically leads to excessive efforts for weight loss. Due to affected individuals’ constant fear of gaining weight, individuals suffering from the disorder restrict the food they consume. According to the American Psychiatric Publishing, the eating disorder usually affects adolescent girls and young women due to their excessive dieting that result to severe wright loss characterized by a pathological fear of becoming fat (Attia ,2010).
What is Eating Disorder?
The National Institute of Mental Health mentioned that eating disorders such as Anorexia Nervosa (also included in the category are bulimia nervosa and binge-eating disorder together with their other variants) all display disturbances in eating patterns and behavior and also weight regulation. Eating disorders are associated with a various adverse psychological, social and physical consequences. The general characteristics of a person who has an eating disorder, they may start out either eating smaller or larger amounts of good, but some point in time, they will be urged to either eat less or more and eventually spiral out of control. There is a presence of severe distress or concern about body figure and weight that roots from extreme efforts to manage food intake and weight (Attia ,2010).
It is important to note that Eating disorders affect both genders, although facts and statistics will show that the rates amongst girls and women are 2.5% greater than the opposite sex. The disorders typically start during the teen years or young adulthood but also may transpire as early as childhood or as late as later in life. Eating disorders are real but treatable medical illnesses. They are usually co-morbid with other psychological illnesses like depression, substance abuse or anxiety disorders. The symptoms if not treated, can be life-threatening which is reflect by anorexia being linked with the highest mortality relate compared to other psychiatric disorder (National Institute of Mental Health).
History of Anorexia Nervosa
Anorexia Nervosa, or when translated means “nervous loss of appetite’ is believed to have exist dating back the 12th century. Even if anorexia nervosa was considered rare up until the second half of the 20th century, it already made its appearance in history. The disorder has even been associated with a religious figure, St. Catherin of Siena who deprived herself of food as part of part of a spiritual denial of self. During the periods of 1970s and 1980s, the cases of both anorexia and bulimia escalated as a result people considered those years are the peak period for the disorder. Most literature links the causes of disorder to the cultural pressures for thinness, obsessive compulsive behavior and increasing depression. Increased dieting also contributed to the hype of the disorder.
The history of the disorder began with the practice of religious fasting dating back during the Hellenistic era and continued even during the medieval era. The practice of self-starvation during the Medieval era contributed to the development of the disorder. The earliest record pertaining to the medical description of anorexia nervosa is credited to Richard Morton during 1689 and cases relating to the disorder continued to transpired throughout the 17th and 19th century. It is also mentioned that the awareness towards the disorder was only limited to medical professionals during that time. The public was only aware of the disorder during the latter part of the 20th century.
Signs and Symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa
After the introduction of the DSM 5, there have been several minor yet important changes in the criteria used to diagnose the disorder. Criterion A focuses on behaviors such as the restriction of calorie intake and it no longer includes the term ‘refusal’ in terms of referring to weight maintenance since it is argued that it implies intention on the part of the individual and can lead to the difficulty in assessment. In the past criterion D in DSM-IV which requires amenorrhea or the absence of at least three (3) menstrual cycles, will no longer part of the criterion in DSM 5 since this criterion is not applicable to males and other females such as pre-menarchal females, females who are taking oral contraceptive and even post-menopausal women. According to the changes in DSM 5, there are some instances that individuals show all the symptoms and signs of anorexia nervosa but still record some menstrual activity.
Causes of Anorexia Nervosa
As mentioned earlier, Anorexia Nervosa in terms of causes is a combination of many factors such as biological, sociocultural, development and psychological elements.
According to the Twin Studies, it has proven that anorexia nervosa is extremely heritable, which suggests that genetics also plays a role in the development of the disorder. The study showed a heritability rate that ranged from 28 to 58%. Similarly, Association studies have conducted a study which focused on 128 different polymorphisms related to 43 genes involved in the regulation of eating behavior, reward mechanism, motivation, emotion and personality traits. As a result of the study, there have been a consistent associations made between polymorphism associated with agouti-related peptide, brain derived neurotrophic factor and other genetic elements.
On the other hand, in terms of psychological causes, the disorder is linked to cases and experiences of childhood sexual abuse, violence and dysfunctional families. The sociological factor of anorexia nervosa is said to be increasing since 1950 which is believed to have branched from the increasing vulnerability and internalization of body ideals. Literature and professionals for instance mentioned that the social pressure to be thin (like dancers and models) were more likely to have contributed to the increasing trend of anorexia. It is also mentioned that those diagnosed with anorexia have greater exposure and contact with cultural sources that promote weight loss. Similarly, the trend is also mentioned to be present in people who partake in sports. The strong emphasis on the aesthetics causes people to disorient their perception of the perfect body image.
Media and the Anorexia Nervosa
According to the study conducted by the group Teen Health and the Media, popular media such as televisions, movies and magazines to name a few ever since World War II increased the trend in promoting the ideal body of image as thin. In a survey conducted by the group to girls from ages 9 to 10 revealed that 40% of the respondents attempted weight loss. In a similar study by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, 10 year old girls and boys mentioned to the researchers that they were dissatisfied with their own bodies after viewing a music video by a popular artist (Britney Spears) or a clip from another popular TV show, Friends. During the year, 1996, a study found that the amount of time an adolescent spend time watching various media outlets such as music videos and movies are linked with their dissatisfaction with their body and extreme desire to become thin like the models and actresses in the video and movies. Reports also showed that y the age of 13, 53% of American girls mention that they are dissatisfied with their own body and by the age of 17, increases to 78% (Teen Health and the Media).
Nancy Signorielli conducted a study for Kaiser Foundation and discovered that in movies and television shows and the commercials accompanying them, women and girls’ appearance frequently receives a comment in the following breakdown: 58% percent of female characters who appeared in movies have received comments focusing on their looks as did 28% in television shows and 26% on the female models found in the accompanying commercials. To add to the discovery, men’s and boy’s appearance is talked about less across the three mentioned media (24% comments about male characters in movies, 10% and 7% on television characters and commercials respectively) (Teen Health and the Media).
Treatment and Prognosis
Although up to now there is no clear treatment pertaining to the treatment. Professionals usually focus on the restoration of the person’s healthy weight through the use of dietary and counseling interventions. Anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate amongst all the mental disorders wherein the mortality rate is 11 to 12 times higher compared that what is predicted and the suicide risk is 56% higher. It is reported that half of women diagnosed with the eating disorder achieve full recovery, while 20-30% made partial recovery.
Attia E (2010). "Anorexia Nervosa: Current Status and Future Directions". Annual Review of Medicine
Nasser, M (2013). . "Nutritional rehabilitation in anorexia nervosa: review of the literature and implications for treatment. BMC Psychiatry
National Institute of Mental Health. Eating Disorders: More Than Food. Retrieved from: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/eating-disorders-new-trifold/index.shtml
Teen Health and the Media. Body Image and Nutrition. Retrieved from http://depts.washington.edu/thmedia/view.cgi?section=bodyimage&page=fastfacts
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