The medical world defines eating disorders as complex illnesses that require careful diagnosis prior to treatment. Once an eating disorder develops into a full-blown disease, it becomes impossible to cure it through will power (Costin 25). Eating disorders belong to a class of primary diseases (they do not generate from other disorders) that exhibit characteristic symptoms during the destructive phase (Costin 25). One should not mistake eating disorders as only diseases of this century; eating disorders existed centuries prior to this era. In the same line, many individuals perceive eating disorders as only diseases for women; however, recent research reveals that eating disorders also affect the male population. In some rare cases, it becomes difficult to identify the cause of an eating disorder during diagnosis (Costin 25). However, subsequent to intensive research carried out in the developed world, the three elementary factors that contribute to eating disorders include psychological, biological, and sociological factors.
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A recent article written by Jennifer Pirtle in Health Magazine reveals that eating disorders affect 5 to 10 million young women in America only (Pirtle 290). Moreover, men make up 10 to 15 % percent of individuals affected by eating disorders. The article also reveals that eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia do not only occur as a result of sociological influences but can also occur due to genetic factors (Pirtle 290). Some of the biological factors indicated in the article include genetics and brain chemistry. In reference to genetics, scientists reveal that a co-occurrence of eating disorders in the class of Bulimia and anorexia likely takes place in most cases of identical twins in comparison to fraternal twins. This is simply because identical twins exhibit strong genetic similarities that support the inherited component. In addition, people that have a past family history of eating disorders are ten times likely to develop the same eating disorders. According to Kaye, an international researcher working on a project examining the genetic causes of bulimia and anorexia in women, eating disorders usually begin at a remarkably tender age and then blossom into full-blown diseases during adulthood (Pritle 291). Kaye also adds that eating disorders are more prevalent in women. Moreover, all patients suffering from bulimia and anorexia exhibit similar symptoms.
Scientific researches focusing on neurochemistry as a genetic component contributing to eating disorders reveal that patients suffering acute stages of anorexia and bulimia have a low count of neurotransmitters (Costin 32). In addition, neurotransmitters such as serotonin and neuroepinephrine exhibit abnormal functionalities in patients suffering from chronic depression. The abnormalities exhibited by neurotransmitters in anorexic and depressed patients draw a link between the two disorders. In addition to the provision of emotional and physical satisfaction, the neurotransmitter serotonin brings feelings of being full and related effects of having had enough food (Costin 32).
Further research on brain chemicals and their effect on eating disorders prevail. Researches reveal that patients suffering from anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa record an abnormal high level of vasopressin and cortisol hormones (Costin 45). The brain releases these hormones in response to emotional and physical stress and sometimes causes a dysfunction in patients suffering from eating disorders. Moreover, numerous researches reveal that chemical elements such as neuropeptide-Y and peptide-YY are of high record in anorexic and bulimic patients. These chemical elements have shown a tendency of arousing eating disorders in laboratory animals (Costin 45). Women suffering from bulimia record a low count of the hormone cholecystokinin (CCK), which is consequently causing them to feel full even without eating (Costin 45).
Apart from genetic factors, environmental conditions significantly contribute to the escalating cases of eating disorders. We live in a world where many perceive size zero as the ideal figure for any woman. For countless years, the fashion industries have received criticism for its idolization of the size zero figure (Costin 54). Despite criticism, this trend continues. One cannot read a fashion magazine, watch a television advertisement or go shopping without a constant reminder that being fat is not attractive. Since it is easy to influence the youth, they blindly heed to the ill-motivated advice without thinking of their health. Sociology studies reveal that the adolescent stage stands as the most vulnerable stage of developing eating disorders. Moreover, the media, especially the film industry, portrays in several instances a thin character as successful and happy in contrast to fat, depressed characters. Bombarded with peer pressure and self-doubt, most youngsters develop eating disorders in a quest to obtain the “ideal” figure (Costin 54). Many teenagers ignore the fact that the human bodies function differently. Most slim individuals possess a high metabolic rate in contrast to large bodied individuals with a low metabolic rate.
The adolescent phase marks a discovery period. During this stage, most individuals struggle with self-acceptance. Hence, individuals with low self-esteem conform to bizarre eating habits in the quest for acceptances from their peers (Costin 54). Contrary to what many believe, sometimes eating disorders might be as a result of deep-rooted belief and not necessarily food. Some societies encourage purging as a cleansing act of chasing away demons. Individuals with a history of sexual abuse are likely to develop eating disorders. Other sociological factors related to eating disorders include physical abuse, obsessive-compulsive and narcissistic personalities (Costin 54).
Some individuals employ eating disorders as measures of protection or defense against certain situations such as emotional trauma (Costin 54). Some women will restrict any intake of food especially after a breakup with a spouse. Psychologically, such individuals believe that once they become thin they have a chance of reuniting with their lost love (Costin 54). Some of the psychological factors that cause eating disorders include low self–esteem, borderline, narcissistic, and avoidant personalities. However, depression and other emotional related disorders seem to be the most underlying causes of psychologically induced eating disorders.
In addition to the primary causes of eating disorders, additional risk factors may increase the probability of one developing an eating disorder. Despite eating disorders affecting men and women, the female community, especially adolescent girls, is more prone to developing eating disorders than men (Costin 60). Age also proves to be a risk factor when it comes to eating disorders (Costin 60). As earlier mentioned, the younger generation idolizes movie stars and media personalities who are usually thin. Hence, they are likely to develop eating disorders as an imitation of these media personalities. Family influences also pose a risk factor in developing eating disorders. Individuals hailing from overly critical families especially in regard to body size exhibit higher chances of eating disorders. Recent studies reveal that skaters tend to lose a lot of weight for unknown reasons. Therefore, sports and athleticism also qualify as risk factors for developing eating disorders. Studies carried out on drug abusers reveal tha, most narcotic users lack food appetite after several instances of drug abuse. Other risk factors include dieting, emotional disorders, and overweight body sizes (Costin 60).
In conclusion, risk factors and causes of eating disorders range from external sociological and cultural influences to internal genetic (biological) and psychological factors. This research paper concludes that most of eating disorders occur as a result of not only one of the above factors but of a combination of two or more factors. Just like it is the case with people undergoing any other disorder, those suffering from an eating disorder go through a denial stage prior to accepting their conditions. Most medical institutions provide eating disorder treatment that assists patients in overcoming their conditions. Moreover, eating disorder treatment also offers therapy that assists patients in handling depression and emotional stress.
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