About Eating Disorders
An eating disorder is a compulsion to eat, or avoid eating, that negatively affects one's physical and mental health. Anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are the most common eating disorders generally recognized by medical classification schemes,with a significant diagnostic overlap between the two. Together, they affect an estimated 5-7% of females in the United States during their lifetimes.
An eating disorder can be caused or triggered by several factors:
A disorder can be caused by such things like obsessive compulsive disorder, depression or in the case of bulimia patients abnormally low serotonin levels.
Patients with severe obsessive compulsive disorder, depression or bulimia patients were all found to have abnormally low serotonin levels. Neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine are secreted by the intestines and central nervous system during digestion.
Researchers have also found low cholecystokinin levels in bulimics. Cholecystokinin is a hormone that causes one to feel full and decreases eating. Low levels of this hormone are likely to cause a lack of satiative feedback when eating, which can lead to overeating. Another explanation researchers found for overeating is abnormalities in the neuromodulator peptides, neuropeptide Y and peptide YY. Both of these peptides increase eating and work with another peptide called leptin. Leptin is released by fat cells and is known to decrease eating. Research found the majority of people who overate produced normal amounts of leptin but they might have complications with the blood-brain barrier preventing an optimal amount to reach the brain.
Cortisol is a hormone released by the adrenal cortex which promotes blood sugar and increases metabolism . High levels of cortisol were found in people with eating disorders. This imbalance may be caused by a problem in or around the hypothalamus. A study in London at Maudsley Hospital found that anorexics were found to have a large variation of serotonin receptors and a high level of serotonin.
Many of these chemicals and hormones are associated with the hypothalamus in the brain .Damage to the hypothalamus can result in abnormalities in temperature regulation, eating, drinking, sexual behavior, fighting, and activity level.
Eating disorders should also be understood in the context of experienced trauma, with many eating problems beginning as survival strategies rather than vanity or obsession with appearance.This can be caused by experiencing severe trauma or a major life changing experience, such as the loss of a loved one, parents getting divorced, moving to a new school etc
Research from a family systems perspective indicates that eating disorders stem from both the adolescent's difficulty in separating from over-controlling parents, and disturbed patterns of communication. When parents are critical and unaffectionate, their children are more prone to becoming self-destructive and self-critical, and have difficulty developing the skills to engage in self-care giving behaviors. Such developmental failures in early relationships with others, particularly maternal empathy, impairs the development of an internal sense of self and leads to an over-dependence on the environment. When coping strategies have not been developed in the family system, food and drugs serve as a substitute..
The media may be a significant influence on eating disorders through its impact on values, norms, and image standards accepted by modern society . Both society's exposure to media and eating disorders have grown immensely over the past decade. Researchers and clinicians are concerned about the relationship between these two phenomena and finding ways to reduce the negative influence thin-ideal media has on women's body perception and susceptibility to eating disorders.
The dieting industry makes billions of dollars each year by consumers continually buying products in an effort to be the ideal weight. Hollywood displays an unrealistic standard of beauty that makes the public feel incredibly inadequate and dissatisfied and forces people to strive for an unattainable appearance. This takes an enormous toll on one's self-esteem and can easily lead to dieting behaviors, disordered eating, body shame, and ultimately an eating disorder.