Anorexia, Essay Example
Anorexia is a serious life threatening eating disorder that affects millions of young women and men every day. It is a deadly psychological disorder that is defined as “by refusal to stay at even the minimum body weight considered normal for the person’s age and height.” (APA, 2007) Anorexic individuals are classified by usually refusing to maintain 15 percent of the normal body weight through self-starvation. Although usually known to affect young individuals the case of older adults past the age of twenty s climbing, and the affecting children as young as those in middle school is increasing as well. (Maloney, Kranz, pg. 60) The cause of anorexia is brought on by several factors mainly psychological that warped a person’s perception of what their image is. Within this essay, it will explore the cause of Anorexia, along with the psychological factors that contribute to the person’s psychosis, and the style of treatments that have been developed in order to help individuals with the debilitating disorder.
Anorexia nervosa is not truly about food. It is an unhealthy way of trying to cope with emotional problems. Anorexia nervosa is a mental illness that causes people to obsess about their weight and the food they eat. The individual diagnosed with anorexia nervosa does not want to maintain even the minimal weight considered normal for his or her age and height. The disorder is recognized by insufficient weight along with an intense fear of gaining weight and often-misunderstood awareness of his or her body weight and shape (Anorexia Nervosa, 2011). There are several factors that contribute to the complex disorder that drives people for the need to be in control. The causes of anorexia are brought on by mostly perceptions of low self-esteem that are seen in individuals that lonely, lack trust in others or themselves, seek no identification with a particular group, insecure, and usually sad. In many children and young people causes of anorexia are contributed to being emotionally disturbed. (Higgs, Goodyer & Birch, 1989) Studies have been shown that early childhood emotional disorder have been linked to teenagers and young adults who suffer from anorexia. (Higgs, Goodyer & Birch, 1989) Many studies have shown that the disorder usually develops during anorexia begins during adolescent years and some emerge as early as childhood and often from prolonged behavioral disturbances. (Lai, 2000) It is observed that the majority if not all patients who suffer from the disease are affected during their preadolescence and adolescence. (Higgs, Goodyer & Birch, 1989, p. 349)
Someone suffering from the disorder usually has a distorted body imaged brought on by many publicize public views of what the “perfect” body is supposed to look like. The media displays images of supermodels, and actresses that draw attention to their usually much smaller frames. Anorexic individuals believed that they are overweight even though in most cases they have a normal body weight. (Yancy, pg. 59). The most common misconceptions about the disorder are that no attention is brought on the lack of food and proper nutrition that can contribute to the change in perception. (Sodersten, Bergh & Zandian, 2006) The psychological and physical causes of anorexia are often the consequences of malnutrition. (Sodersten, Bergh & Zandian, 2006)
Another example shows that most anorectic patients have lived or often live in a poor family relationships, separated families and step families. (Lai, 2000) Although anorexia cannot be mainly based in the assumption that sufferers of this disease have a dysfunctional family environments, it has been observed that at often times, the onset of this disease begins at home and the psychological and emotional impact that contributes to the early development of the disease in many young children. (Lane, Fitzgerald, 2000) Many patients often are surrounded by parents with high expectations and perfectionism has become a necessity in daily life especially surrounding their education. (Lai, 2000, p. 564) There is a high expectation of success and achievement in many of these patients that the drive to succeed and do well in school has purely become nothing but the effort to seek for approval rather than simply wanting to achieve in itself. (Lane, Fitzgerald, 2000, p. 74) Insecurity of inferiority is also another symptom in many. The need to compete between siblings of dominant and critical parents with high expectations was a common case according to a research on Chinese cultural perception of the illness. (Lai, 2000, p. 564) In addition there is the significant influence of the father figure that adds to the constraint. The role of the father has been marked as a strong focus on achievement as well. (Lane, Fitzgerald, 2000, p. 74)
Psychological dysfunction is common in many patients who suffer from the disease, but it is supported that psychological disturbances such as the distorted body image may be the result of malnutrition and not it is preceding cause. In addition, the treatment of the disease has been practiced in only treating the physical degradation of the patient’s health rather than approaching the illness in an empathetic manner. In most cases, treated patients felt hesitant to seek further treatment of their illness from their therapists, and this is often due to the lack of an empathetic relationship between the therapist and the patient. (Sloan, 1999, p. 43) At first anorexia nervosa was believed to be predominantly a psychological disorder but later theory indicated the cause to be organic and in current times the cause has changed back to psychological reasons (Habernas, 2005).
When a person has the eating disorders, two neurotransmitters undergo difficulty with regard to regulation. Unregulated dopamine levels are commonly associated with anorexia nervosa. Dopamine aids in regulating mood and behavior as well as thought processes (Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (ednos), 1996-2011). In addition, dopamine helps regulate patterns related to eating and appetite. Serotonin is also associated with anorexia nervosa as this neurotransmitter is responsible for regulation of the perception of pain, feeding, sleeping cycles, temperature regulation in the body, motor activity, and sexual behavior. When these regulatory actions become compromised in anorexia nervosa cases, many signs and symptoms of the disease become obvious (Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (ednos), 1996-2011).
Anorectic patients have poor relationships in the family and are pressured by high success in education and perfectionism. As a result, many suffering from eating disorders have low self-esteem or self-worth. (Murphy & Manning, 2004, p. 48) At this level, it is worsened when these circumstances reopened throughout their childhood-adolescent years when the pressure of the transition to adulthood is added into the equation. (Lai, 2000) The ideal of perfectionism creates low self-esteem in individuals and is a driving force in the psychological mindset that increases the risk of anorexia development in young adults. Individuals usually create expectations and goals that are not possible to achieve that leave them with feelings of inadequacy. Their view is distorted into seeing only black and white, and either success or failure. The psychological effects of anorexia motivates individuals to remain thin no matter what. Eating is not an option for these individuals as it is seen as a barrier that keeps them from attaining their ultimate goal of remaining thin. Anorexic individuals might feel hungry but refused to eat. They discipline themselves to obtain the lowest amount of calories as possible.
It is clear that the majority of anorectic patients are predominantly affected by emotional trauma and are behaviorally disturbed, and it indeed has a great impact on the patient’s life consequently before and during. It should be recommended that in order to help aid patients with anorexia, Cognitive therapy should be globally considered because it has proven to show positive changes among anorectics with supportive and empathetic therapists. Empathy allows the patient to freely express and share their feelings with the therapist rather than in simply trying to convince the patient in reversing the process of the disease. (Sloan, 1999) Nevertheless to help prevent the early development of anorexia and other eating disorders in children and young adults, a healthy relationship at home needs to be established followed by the encouragement of regular counselling at school for children including even those who may not show any signs of eating or behavioral disorders to help detect the early signs of anorexia and before its inception.
Symptoms, Effects, and Treatments
Anorexia nervosa is diagnosed by four different criteria. These criteria consist of the refusal to uphold a normal weight evidenced by failure to maintain a weight equal to 85% of that expected for his or her height and age. Criteria B include the extreme fear of weight gain or of becoming fat although the individual is obviously underweight. Criteria C is met when the individual exhibits denial about their condition, has troubled perceptions about his or her weight or look or has an obsession with regards to their appearance as related to weight. The final criteria are met if the individual is female and of menstrual age and has experienced the absence of three menstrual cycles because of their illness. (Gentile, 2010) Additionally there are two sub-types of the illness. Restricting anorexics that reduce nutritional intake without the use of laxatives, diuretics or enemas. In addition, the restricting anorexic will not resort bunging or purging behaviors to control their weight. The individual who uses binging and purging as part of their disease is classified as a binge-eating/purging type anorexic. (Gentile, 2010)
The seriousness of the illness results from the excess of possible complications to malnutrition. The individual diagnosed with anorexia nervosa will often have low blood pressure, decreased heart rate and swelling or bloating (Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (ednos), 1996-2011). The metabolic process is affected, and this results in dehydration and lost electrolytes that can cause abnormal heart rhythm, cardiac arrest or sudden death. Additional complications can result osteoporosis in later years because of lost calcium vital to bone health (Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (ednos), 1996-2011). Because the individual with anorexia nervosa suffers from a distorted self-image and faulty thought processes with regards to weight and eating habits the illness goes beyond psychological concern to valid medical concern, thus requiring a variable approach to treatment methods. Diagnosis is often given by one’s medical doctor who recognizes specific signs and symptoms related to anorexia nervosa including emaciation, dryness or yellowing tone to the skin, significantly low blood pressure and perhaps a downy-type growth of body hair (Anorexia Nervosa, 2011).
In addition, the doctor may note complaints of abdominal distress including constipation, pain or vomiting. The individual may have ceased menstruation and have reduced energy levels. The patient may also have complaints of feeling cold on a regular basis as temperature regulation has been compromised. Additionally, if vomiting is a complaint the doctor may notice signs of reduced enamel on the teeth or decay. If signs and symptoms suggest diagnosis further measures to make a correct diagnosis will be taken as well as history of weight loss normally resulting in the individual being at or below 85% of their standard weight (Anorexia Nervosa, 2011).
The ruling out of other possible medical conditions, which can cause weight loss, related to metabolic disorders, tumor and digestive disease will follow. Additionally, either the doctor or a psychologist will need to rule out the likelihood of other mental illness including obsessive-compulsive disorder, social phobia and body dysmorphic disorder. While these disorders can often be ruled out as cause of the anorexia nervosa signs and symptoms it is also beneficial to note many individuals diagnosed with this illness will commonly have multiple mental illness diagnosis’ which can include these other disorders (Anorexia Nervosa, 2011).
Treatment of anorexia nervosa has varied throughout time as much as the theorizing of anorexia nervosa’s etiology. Initially approached almost entirely through psychotherapy in the late fifties through early sixties the illness is more recently approached from multiple angles. While individual psychotherapy is still essential to successful treatment current treatment involves added therapy for the family unit as well as group therapy. Antidepressants are often prescribed as well as occasional antipsychotic medications (Diseases & Conditions, 1995-2011). Nutritional education is also essential for the patient to achieve more positive habits with regard to eating. Severe cases of anorexia nervosa require hospitalization. The need for hospitalization will be related to patients who have a weight equal to or below 60% of standard weight for age and height. In addition, binging and purging may be out of control in these patients, there may be increased signs of psychosis, depression or suicidal risk. In these severe instances, there is also likely to be extended consequence to people close to the patient as the family caring and living with the anorexic feel they are involved in a time of crisis (Diseases & Conditions, 1995-2011).
Treatment can be helped or delayed by the patient’s environmental circumstances. If the patient has managed to effectively hide his or her disease from friends and family members, diagnosis and treatment may be challenging to near impossible due to the common occurrence of denial in those suffering from this illness. Because many people with anorexia nervosa are successful in their careers or schooling those close to the individual may not be aware that there is a serious problem with their loved one (Anorexia Nervosa, 2011). If, then again, family and friends recognize the related signs and symptoms of the illness and become involved by expressing concern or prompting medical or psychological evaluation diagnosis and treatment success are significantly increased. With a support network of educated individual’s the anorexic will likely be more apt to comply with treatment plans (Anorexia Nervosa, 2011).
Anorexia nervosa is a complicated illness dating back all through history. Even though, the cause has been hypothesized from many approaches, the agreement remains that the illness is the direct result of psychological trouble. Then again, the disease becomes more complicated as the individual goes through a state of malnutrition, which can cause secondary health problems from the body’s lack of ability to work properly. These malfunctions can cause serious health complications or death to an individual (Anorexia nervosa FactSheet, n.d.). Fast diagnosis is necessary in fighting long-standing health problems and treatment plans must include the use of psychotherapy on individual, and group levels as well as medical involvement to teach the individual to pick up nutritional and healthy eating patterns. Additionally, anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medications may be needed to address negative thought processes and compulsions. Should the individual diagnosed with anorexia nervosa comply with treatment plans prognosis is good with reduced risk of recurrence (Gentile, 2010).
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