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Outline And Evaluate One Psychological Explanation And One Biological Explanation Of An Eating Disorder. [24 Marks]

1049 words - 5 pages

Outline and evaluate one psychological explanation and one biological explanation of an eating disorder. [24 marks]

Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder characterised by recurrent binge-eating followed by self-induced vomiting or another compensatory behaviour (purging).

One psychological explanation of bulimia nervosa is the functional model which was created by Polivy et al. in 1994. This model suggests that individuals engage in the binge-eating associated with BN as a way of coping with identity problems, particularly those associated with self-image. By overeating the person can attribute any resulting distress to the overeating rather than to the more serious underlying issues ...view middle of the document...

According to this model, a consequence of BN is the development of a diffuse-avoidant identity style. This has been show to make such individuals susceptible to a variety of health and social problems, including self-harm. Targeting the initial symptoms that lead to bulimia nervosa can both avoid BN and prevent the development of the potentially harmful diffuse-avoidant style.

A problem with this explanation is that most research has focused solely on risk factors for the development of BN in heterosexual women to the exclusion of other vulnerable groups. However, some studies have suggested that gay and bisexual men have a higher incidence of eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia than heterosexual women. For example, Feldman and Meyer (2007) estimate that 15% of gay or bisexual men have at some time suffered from an eating disorder, compared to less than 10% of lesbian or bisexual women and 8% of heterosexual women. It is not clear why gay men have such high rates of eating disorders. One possible reason is that the values and norms of the gay community promote high expectations about physical appearance, similar to what has been hypothesised about heterosexual women. As a result, they may feel pressure to maintain an ideal body image, particularly if they are part of an intimate relationship.

One biological explanation of bulimia nervosa is a neural explanation using the neurotransmitters serotonin and nitric oxide. Depression and BN occur together suggesting that they are both linked to imbalances in the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin helps to control anxiety levels as well as perceptions of hunger and appetite. Low levels of serotonin result in depression, while high levels can result in anxiety. Binge-eating may increase serotonin levels, which relieves feelings of depression and restores well-being. However, binge-eating may raise serotonin levels too high, leading to intense feelings of anxiety. The bulimic tends to associate these anxious feelings with eating and weight gain. To counter these feelings and to prevent weight gain, they purge. Purging reduces anxiety levels, but may lower serotonin levels too much, causing depression, and starting the cycle all over again. Alternatively, nitric oxide is a neurotransmitter involved in the regulation of food intake. Most of the actions of NO are due to the...

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