Anorexia/ Bulimia

Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa are eating disorders wherein an individual suffers from a complex compulsion to eat in a way that disturbs the physical, mental, and psychological health of the individual.

An anorexic individual is obsessed with an irrational fear of gaining weight. He or she utilizes extreme measures such as starvation, excessive exercise, diet pills, diuretics or vomiting to maintain thinness.

The behavior of a bulimic individual is characterized by binging and purging. A bulimic individual consumes excessive quantities of food, feels extremely guilty afterwards and relieves the guilt by taking purgative measures to vomit the previously consumed food.

Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa are typically observed among prepubescent and teenage girls. This correlation may be partially explained by the impressionable psyche of females in this age group and by the prevailing images to which they are exposed. Because of the prevailing images, young females often feel that thinness is necessary to obtain happiness. Men also suffer from eating disorders because of the alleged necessity of being a thin, fashionable, metro-sexual male. However, the instances of eating disorders are observed in women significantly more often than they are in men.

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Causes and Risk Factors

Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa can be caused by a combination of several social, psychological and biological elements.

Social Factors
Modern Western culture portrays the thin body structure as the ideal female form. Female bodies featured in magazines, television and movies are typically thin and those females who are not extremely thin are portrayed to be 'living with their curves' or 'working towards getting back into shape'. The gravity of the situation is also heightened by pressure inflicted by peers at school or at work, the common condescending attitude towards overweight individuals, and positive attention awarded to thin individuals. Individuals who are involved in professions like modeling and acting, and athletes that must maintain a thin image such as ballerinas, gymnasts, ice skaters and wrestlers have a higher risk of developing anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. Maintaining thinness is crucial in these professions because the bodies of those individuals involved are constantly scrutinized. As a result individuals must constantly cope with issues of weight and body image. Some parents pressure their children to become thin and this can lead to personal discontent among the children and lead to the development of an eating disorder.
Psychological Factors
An individual suffering from either anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa has a distorted image of his or her body. Some individuals consistently seek appreciation and credibility from other people. Certain traits such as obsessive behavior, perfectionism, pessimism, and over-confidence may also contribute to the development of eating disorders. A traumatic experience, such as sexual abuse, bullying, medical complication or death of a loved one may also cause an individual to develop an eating disorder because he or she may seek to fill a void or have some type of an outlet. The tendency to inflict self-harm, substance abuse, jealousy towards those who are thin, depression, low self esteem and anxiety are also surrounding factors that may contribute to anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa.
Biological Conditions

Anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa typically begin between the ages of 12-18 years. This is usually the time when a person experiences puberty and undergoes physical and emotional changes. Individuals may experience problems accepting the changes that occur during this period and they may feel confused and uncontrollable. Anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa may be utilized by these individuals as an attempt to gain control in their lives.

Genetics may also determine an individual’s susceptibility to anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa.

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