Psychology - Biological Explanation of Eating Disorders Essay

1011 Words May 29th, 2013 5 Pages
Psychology Essay
The biological approach suggests that AN is due a physical cause, suggesting it could be due to something within the body or brain; such as hypothalamus dysfunction or an imbalance of neurotransmitters.
The hypothalamus dysfunction theory would suggest that animals have a “set weight” which is correct for their body, if this weight should increase or decrease then the body should make adjustments to regulate food intake to their “set weight”.
The hypothalamus is thought to have quite a lot of control over our eating behaviour, the lateral hypothalamus (LH) is considered to be the feeding switch that makes an individual begin to feed whereas the ventromedial hypothalamus (VMH) is the satiety switch that makes an
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This research would also support the biological explanation of AN as if an individual has damage to their hypothalamus then it could result in reduced feeding which would then result in dramatic weight loss, as seen in sufferers of AN. However, this theory is reductionist as it suggests that the only explanation of AN is a biological reason, and it ignores other factors; like things such as stress or sexual abuse which can both lead to AN.
Another biological explanation of AN would be that there is an imbalance of serotonin, which is usually associated with depression and anxiety; as disturbed levels of serotonin have been found in AN sufferers. It is also likely that eating disorders arise due to high levels of anxiety which is linked with high levels of serotonin in the body.
Bailer et al (1970) compared serotonin activity in recovering anorexia suffers and healthy controls. They found significantly higher activity in the women that were recovering from anorexia, the highest levels found in those women with the highest anxiety levels. This also provides support for AN having a biological cause, in this case an imbalance of neurotransmitters.
However, it’s difficult to establish cause and effect in Bailer’s research, this is because the women studied were already recovering from an eating disorder and so it’s impossible to know whether the imbalance of serotonin was the cause of the women’s AN or whether the AN causes an imbalance of…