In modern society eating disorders can be characterized as a social and medical problem. The main causes of eating disorders are an ideal body image and overeating. Eating disorders of different types increases the risk of developing coronary heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, and some forms of cancer. These risks of obesity are particularly strong in individuals under age 40. Several prospective studies, following large cohorts of subjects, have shown that individuals who are even modestly overweight have a greater risk of developing coronary heart disease. The relation between eating disorders and mortality is complex and different studies reach different conclusions. Some of the discrepancies between these studies are due to methodological problems, such as the failure to control for smoking (smokers are thinner and die earlier; thus, low body weight may appear to be a risk factor for mortality, whereas it is really smoking that is the risk factor). In the strongest studies, there appears to be an almost linear, continuous relation between BMI and mortality. Eating disorders is both a personal and psychological problem which needs medical interventions and support of relatives and close people. The first part of the paper will address the main types of eating disorders and consequences caused by eating disorders; the second part will discuss psychological and biological causes of eating disorders; conclusion will summarize the main findings and research results.
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Bulimia Nervosa is one of the common eating disorders that are determined over the concern with human body weight and shape that usually lead to repeated episodes of binging related to induce vomiting, use of laxatives, fasting, and/or excessive exercise to control weight. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) classified the bulimia as a distinct disorder early in 1980, which name was changed in 1987 to bulimia nervosa. Being used to treat mental illnesses and disorders, psychoactive drugs influence the central nervous system by altering the cognition and behavior of the person, including mood, thought process, perception, arousal, etc. Such drugs are used as primary treatment in case of mental disorders like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Though, in cases of personality disorders psychoactive drugs are used as secondary treatment in the form of cognitive-behavioral therapy.
Psychoactive drugs can be classified in the following categories: (a) depressants such as hypnotics, alcohol, volatile solvents or tranquilizers that reduce the central nervous system (CNS) activity and body functions; (b) stimulants such as ecstasy, caffeine, cocaine, nicotine or amphetamines that, on the contrary, increase the work of CNS; (c) opioids like heroin or morphine that reduce and relieve pain and stimulate sleep; and finally (d) hallucinogens such as LSD, PCP or marijuana that influence the human perception and cause hallucinations and delusions (Claude-Pierre, 1998). It has become increasingly clear that body fat distribution, as well as total body fat, contributes to the health consequences. The problem of bulimia nervosa is an ideal body image popularized by mass media. Such influence is characterized by the following criteria: (a) density, which is the extent to which people know each other; (b) reciprocity, which is mutual sharing; (c) intensity, which identifies the frequency of interactions between community members; (d) dispersion, which suggests how easily members contact each other; (e) functional social support, under which people provide assistance, contacts, and resources to help each other (Claude-Pierre, 1998).
Anorexia Nervosa is an eating disorder when people starve themselves since they are convinced they are overweight despite in reality having extreme weight loss of 15% below the person's normal body weight. That is why, it is vitally important to identify anorexia symptoms at the beginning stage of this eating disorder to be able to heal it and prevent further harmful effects. Causing such negative side effects as irregular heartbeat, mineral loss, shrunken bones, and others anorexia can lead to hospitalization, harmed body functioning and even death. (Izevbigie, 2006). Moreover, aside from serious consequences considering health condition, there might appear a risk of total social isolation due to social discrimination, depression and low self esteem.
Obesity is defined as: "an excess of body fat, and is distinct from "overweight" (Toth and Schwartz 13) which means an excess of body weight. When contrasted with smoking and drinking, obesity at first seems like a less serious health problem. Obesity is not only more hazardous than smoking and drinking, but it also leads to a higher cost for health care and medicine. Statistics also show that obesity contributes approximately 740,000 deaths from heart diseases, 540,000 from cancer, 158,000 from stroke, and 59,000 from diabetes are mainly contributable to obesity.
In many cases of Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa, female patients often feel pressure because they cannot accept their appearances and eventually starve themselves to stay in shape (Izevbigie, 2006).
Abdominal obesity is seen most commonly in men, in those who are heavier, and also appears to be associated with high dietary fat intake, low exercise, and smoking; there also appears to be a genetic contribution to body fat distribution. Overweight individuals are exposed to significant prejudice and discrimination. Children as young as age 6 rate overweight children as lazy, stupid, dirty, and prefer not to play with overweight peers
The obesity might easily be transformed through the life span into even greater health-related risks, namely, high blood pressure, a great likelihood of heart disease, asthma and even Type II diabetes that was previously known as particularly adult disease. Consequently it should be mentioned that not a single cause, but a set of interrelated factors, specifically environmental, genetic, socioeconomic, psychological and behavioral all contribute to further excessive accumulation of fat in the body, known as obesity or overweight (Shelley, 1997). On the other hand, the physical activity among children and adolescents is a must for normal development of a young growing organism and losing weight. Given these findings of prejudice and discrimination against the obese, it might be expected that the obese would have higher rates of depression and psychological disturbances. However, in population-based studies, no significant differences in psychological measures between obese and lean subjects have been reported. The only psychological effects seem to be very specific to obesity, with greater dissatisfaction with body shape among the obese and greater problems with binge eating. Binge eating disorder (BED), which was included in the appendix of DSM-IV and is characterized by periods of eating large amounts of food and a feeling of loss of control, occurs in less than 10% of individuals with BMI of c 30 but in over 40% of those with BMI > 34 (Izevbigie, 2006). The significant drop in physical activity engagement in schools was noticed over the last several years. When total body weight is more than 25 percent fat in boys and more than 32 percent fat in girls there is a clear evidence of overweight condition that soon may cause more serious consequences (Shelley, 1997).
Obesity is a direct result of unhealthy eating and eating disorders. As western pop culture is shipped abroad to sell western commodities, the problem went as well like unwanted freebies that are stuck and taped around a product. Some Black, Asian, and Hispanic individuals are plagued by unhealthy eating habits because they simply wish to achieve the same physical attributes of celebrities they idolized. Many researchers underline the impact of school nutrition programs on child obesity epidemics. Most of them are heavy eating who pay no attention to quantity of food. Most of them eat three times more than an average person which results in obesity problems. Most of obese people suppose that fitness programs do not help them preferring to blame society in low morals and advertising agencies in misleading information. Most researchers parallel child obesity epidemics with development and growth of fast food industry which became a distinctive feature of the American life style. Fast food life style is dangerous because it results in disbalance of nutrition and causes eating disorders. All fast food contains high cholesterol level which is the primarily cause of obesity. Limited physical activity worsens the problems of obesity (Treasure, 1997).
Biological and Psychological Causes of Eating Disorders
In eating disorders, the biological factors that can cause a regulation in the body weight and appetite can vary from person to another, where it is based on some factors such as the age, gender, the genes, the family root and whether some of the parents have the ability to get weight or not. On the other side, there are some other factors such as anger, sadness, boredom, and anxiety can trigger binge eating and has direct impact on the eating disorder manner. Impulsive manners and certain other emotional problems can be more frequent in people with binge eating disorder. Nevertheless, many people also claim that binging takes place regardless of their mood (Treasure, 1997).
In eating disorders, psychological dependence happens when the person takes drugs for emotional reasons like stress reduction. There are two models of addiction: (a) disease model of addiction, which is based biologically and needs medical treatment to be recovered; and (b) life-process model of addiction (Treasure, 1997). While some symptoms are obvious both for the person him/herself and others around (nervousness, physical dependence on alcohol or drugs, etc), other symptoms are rather difficult to recognize.
Usually, people use schemas as the organized ways to look at things and people that influence person's expectations, behavior, etc. Certainly, to seek medical treatment is the responsibility of each drug-dependent person or those who surround him based on the perception of the severity of the addiction symptoms (Shelley, 1997; Izevbigie, 2006).
Eating disorders (anorexia nervosa, bulimia and obesity) is a problem of modern society influenced by unhealthy food patterns, advertising and false images popularized by mass media. Culture and gender have their own influences on health care since the person's socioeconomic status, ethnicity, gender and other factors directly affect his/her perception of the disease, necessity or financial ability to seek appropriate treatment. It is obvious that those people who live in poverty or from low socioeconomic status receive less medical help than those with stable income and medical coverage. The influence of gender on health care can be observed while analyzing the female and male patients, their attitudes and behaviors, where men are usually direct and logical decision makers and women are less independent and more influenced by others. In multi-ethnical communities the doctors can influence the patients by learning and understanding the beliefs, attitudes and experiences of patients from different ethnical groups and nationalities. The information mentioned above demonstrates that unhealthy eating and sedentary life style is culturally constructed and influenced by cultural peculiarities and established traditions. Eating disorders are dangerous for millions of people as they lead to such diseases as cancer, leukemia and cardiovascular disorders. Effective treatment and prevention methods should be introduced at early stages of the diseases progression.