Essay Eating Disorders in Adolescents

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Eating Disorders in Adolescents

The eating disorders anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are complex psychosomatic illnesses. Underlying biological diatheses related to the regulation of mood, hunger, satiety, weight control, and metabolism, combined with psychological and sociocultural vulnerabilities, place an individual at risk for developing an eating disorder (Kaplan and Garfinkel, 1993). The American Anorexia Nervosa Association defines anorexia as a ‘serious illness of deliberate self-starvation with profound psychiatric and physical components.’ It is a complex emotional disorder that initiates its victims on a course of unsettled dieting in pursuit of excessive thinness (Neuman and Halvorson, 1983).
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The primary symptom of anorexia nervosa is severe weight loss. While this is one of the major criteria for making the diagnosis, it is believed the 25 percent reduction to be misleading (Neuman, 1983). It is often incorrectly assumed that anorexics were previously obese. While the disorder is often preceded by ‘normal’ dieting, only one-third of anorexics have been overweight and most of these only mildly so. Two-thirds have never been overweight, although they may have been the targets of comments regarding their physical development (Neuman, 1983). Anorexia is often preceded by a stressful life situation. This may range from a family conflict or major changes such as a change in schools, a family move, the loss of a boyfriend or girlfriend, or an illness. Change, in general, seems to be particularly stressful for anorexic individuals. The childhood history of those who develop anorexia typically reveals a ‘model child.’ Many anorexics describe themselves as ‘people pleasers.’ As children, they are often described by parents and teachers as introverted, conscientious, and well behaved. They tend to be perfectionists and compulsive, and thus, overachievers (Neuman, 1983). Depressive, obsessional, hysterical, and phobic features are also common with anorexia. Bulimia, also known in the media as ‘bulimarexia,’ ‘binge-vomiting’ and gorge-purging,’ is an eating disorder similar to chemical dependency (Cauwels,
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