Discuss Psychological Explanations of One Eating Disorder

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Discuss psychological explanations of one eating disorder (8+16 marks) The DSM defines eating disorders as ‘illnesses in which the victims suffer severe disturbances in their eating behaviours and related thoughts and emotions’. It is argued that the preoccupation with food in many Western cultures, coupled with the obsession of losing weight has led to the emergence of food and eating disorders such as Anorexia Nervosa (AN). As society has developed its understanding of the causes of eating disorders, it has become apparent that they are as much a mental disorder as they are a physical disorder. Thus psychological explanations have emphasised the risk factors of media, culture, personality and childhood experiences in the cause of Anorexia Nervosa. The DSM (IV) states four criteria for AN. The first is the anxiety associated with the disorder and the excessive fear of being fat. The second criterion weight loss is considered to be abnormal when it drops below 85% of the individual’s normal weight, based on age and height. People with AN develop unusual eating habits e.g. Avoiding food & meals or carefully weighing & portioning food. Individuals may repeatedly check their body weight, & may engage in techniques to control their body weight e.g. Compulsive exercise. The next is body-image distortion i.e individuals suffering from AN do not see their own thinness and deny the severity of their low body weight. The final criterion is amenorrhoea, where the absence of menstrual periods for more than 3 months is a clinical characteristic of AN. However, there are several problems with this criteria, for example amenorrhoea is completely gender biased and there is no flexibility in the percentage cut off of 85% which could be problematic if your weight falls just above or below this. However, the
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