Biological Explanations to Eating Disorders Essay

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1. Discuss one or more biological explanations of eating disorders (8 marks + 16 marks)The biological approach would suggest that anorexia nervosa (AN) has a physical cause, anirregularity arising from the body or the brain, such as hypothalamus dysfunction or an imbalanceof neurotransmitters.The hypothalamus dysfunction theory works around the idea that animals have a ‘set weight’ thatis correct for their body, should that weight increase or decrease the body should makeadjustments to regulate food intake to return the individual to their ‘set weight’.The hypothalamus is thought to have great control over our eating behaviour. The lateralhypothalamus (LH) is considered to be the feeding switch that makes an individual begin to feedand the ventromedial hypothalamus (VMH) is the satiety switch which makes an individual ceasefeeding. Garfinkel and Gardner (1982) suggested that a disturbed hypothalamus may be the causeof AN, they proposed that any disturbance could lead to either the LH or VMH to be constantlyactivated. In order to explain AN it is most likely that the LH is damaged and the individual neverreceives a hunger signal to begin feeding and that the VMH becomes over activated and theindividual receives a constant full signal. This supports the idea that AN might have a biologicalexplanation, specifically brain dysfunction.Anand & Brobeck found that if the LH in rats was damaged it lead to aphagia (which is a failure toeat when hungry), this provides support for the idea that hypothalamic damage could lead toreduced eating which is support for the biological explanation of AN.However, this raises the issue of extrapolation; this is when an attempt is made to generaliseresearch conducted on non-human animals to humans. This is an issue as animals and humans arebiological different and so it cannot be guaranteed that humans would respond in the same way toLH

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