.. Bulimia Nervosa has begun to be recognized in the last 30 years as a serious psychological disorder, primarily affecting women. The essential features are binge eating, which may or may not co-occur with inappropriate means of weight gain prevention. Bulimia, as well as eating disorders in general are the result of biological psychological and psychosocial factors. Urges to overeat, gorge or purge may arise as a backlash to dieting or fasting, but often as a dead-end coping mechanism for many individuals whose lives encompass stress, loneliness or inadequacy (Arenson, 1989).
Bulimia appears to affect predominately women at any age from the teens into middle age. White, middle-class adolescence and women in there 20s with lofty motivation towards success, and a general appeal towards a traditional life style including marriage, are most vulnerable (White 1989). Bulimic women are often highly intelligent, driven, attractive in appearance and fixed on successful careers. Despite their affect and portrayal, they often have low self-esteem, a sense of loneliness and isolation, a desire for absolute perfection and control, and over all an obsession with food (White 1989). Bulimia consists of binge eating, which encompasses gorging on gross amounts of food, and may also have a purge aspect, which may include vomiting, fasting, or laxatives. Bulimic patients are known to ingest enormous quantities of food in short time periods.
They often suffer from abdominal pains or discomfort, were in tern they induce vomiting (Field and Dominague 1988). Bulimics are known to be primarily preoccupied with their weight, where as conflicts about food and weight gain may begin to dominate their lives. Interestingly enough, the foods consumed during the binge cycle often have a high caloric content. The foods consumed are often sweets, high carbohydrate content foods, with a texture, which increases the rapidness of ingestion and vomiting (Arenson 1989). Bulimia has approximately nine dominant characteristics, which are frequent in sufferers. 1. Recurring binge episodes, where large amounts of food are consumed quickly. 2. Consumption of high calorie foods.
3. Secret, or inconspicuous eating sessions (primarily a solitary activity). 4. Ending binge sessions with self induced purging. 5.
Repeated often-unsuccessful attempts to lose weight through the use of dieting, diuretics, and laxatives. 6. Extreme fear of being, becoming, or appearing fat. 7. Extreme and frequent weight fluctuations. 8. Depression and a low self image. 9.
Preoccupation with excessive exercise (Arenson 1989). Bulimia may start out as a means for having your cake, and eating it too. Many weight conscious young women realized at a young age that they can overeat, experiencing the joy of eating, and stay thin through induced vomiting (Field, Camargo,Taylor 1999). It is suggested that many teens, primarily adolescent girls, try the binge-purge method briefly but eventually grow out of it, through the realization of its possibly harmful affects (Arenson 1989). Certain women however become addicted to the act.
Eventually the pleasure is alleviated and the practice of bingeing and purging seem to take on a life of their own. On many occasions the binge-purge cycle becomes the center of a bulimic’s existence. They may go as far as to plan their day around their private ritual of binge purge (Hesse-Biber 1997). Bulimic strugglers realize the abnormality of their eating habits yet are often unable to stop. For most women struggling with bulimia, stopping is almost unthinkable.
The options are to remain in the confines of binge eating, or to become fat; there is no alternative (Arenson 1989). One primary feature, which is present in almost all bulimics, is the negative self-view. Depression is prevalent among women with eating disorders, a disturbance in body weight and shape intensifies the feelings of body dissatisfaction (Wiederman and Pryor, 2000). Bulimia leaves its victims quite often with a feeling of incredible self-loathing and hatred. In therapy patients have described themselves as disgusting pigs (Pierre 1997). Bulimias biggest handicap appears to be the low self-image it leaves in its wake.
Although bulimics are quite often intelligent, creative, and successful, they continue to downgrade themselves regularly. Bulimics drive towards perfectionism tends to produce feelings of helplessness, which reinforces their sense of worthlessness. In turn these negative feelings tend to provoke more overeating and contribute sadly to the degenerative cycle. Control is the bottom line. The binge-purge cycle is stoked by the self-hatred attributed to the lack of control over food. The binge-purge cycle is one of self-judgment, which leads to both punishment and relief from pain through eating (Arenson 1989). Biological factors may be one answer to the struggle of bulimia, which affects millions of people today.
Compulsions, a key aspect of bulimia, may result from a complex combination of traumatic childhood experiences, a genetic predisposition towards compulsivity, as well as negative environmental pressures. Despite views that environmental and social pressures are the underlying cause of bulimia, the genetic makeup of the body may be a contributing factor. Addictive and compulsive behaviors result from self induced changes in brain neurotransmitters (Arenson 1989). Another possible biological theory is turned set point theory. The set point theory refers to the tendency of the body to resist variations from a biologically determined individuals normal weight. On speculation an individual who intends on maintaining a decrease in body weight well below his or her set point may confront compensatory homeostatic mechanisms shared by all of us (Carson, Butcher and Mineka 1999).
Generally speaking body weight resists change. Weight appears to be physiologically regulated around a set point, or a weight that ones body tries to defend. Significant deviations from this weight result in a myriad of physiological compensations aimed at returning the organism to this set point (Allyn and Bacon 1999). Although there is no direct proof of a single biological cause of bulimia, heredity and brain functioning appear to play a crucial role in the occurrence rate. Nurture Environment and nurture, rather than any biological predisposition appears to be the cause of bulimia in our culture. Our modern culture tends to judge men primarily on his ambition, aggressiveness, and his domination in the world through thought and action.
On the other hand women are judged primarily on appearance. Some times society goes as far as to say that a womens sexual body can be dangerous to a man on his road to success (Hesse-Biber 1997). American culture tends to put extreme emphasis on the female body as a sex object. Beauty for most women is the road to acceptance and success. As one woman stated. I fell for the American dream, female version, hook, line, and sinker.
I, as many young women do, honest-to-god believed that once I just lost a few pounds, somehow I would suddenly be a New You. I would have Ken-doll men chasing my thin legs down with bouquets of flowers on the street. I would become rich famous and glamorous (Hornbacher 1998). Because most women believe that their body fails the beauty test, the industries of America profit enormously by nurturing feminine insecurities (Hesse-Biber 1997). America uses the media to project an image of the desirable female body.
Images of the female figure are portrayed on TV, in movies, magazines, billboards, and prints. Despite many of these portrayals being geared towards men, womens magazines are another culprit, they offer to help women through beauty tips, advertisements and advertorials, yet they project an image virtually impossible to achieve. As a young college student Nancy stated. The advertisement showed me exactly what I should be, not what I was. I wasnt tall, blond, or skinny. I’m short, which curly brown hair and short legs. They offered me solutions like dying my hair or using cream for cellulite (Hesse-Biber 1997). The media and advertising industry has portrayed a figure that is impossible to obtain, even the women shown in these portrayals are unrealistic composites.
Blemishes are air- brushed, highlights are added to hair, and legs are lengthened through camera angles. The women exhibited are computerized composites of what was once a normal figure (Hesse-Biber 1997). Thorough studies show that bulimia is learned behavior, directly correlating with female socialization (White 1992). Besides the cultural view of beauty as portrayed through the media. Early life situations and parental relations are key in contributing to the possible result of bulimia.
Parents play one of the biggest roles in causation. Fathers of bulimics often have some kind of eating idiosyncrasy of their own, and are often quite absent in the girls life (Field and Domanague). Mothers of bulimics are often excessively dominant intrusive, overbearing, and ambivalent in dispensing affect (Carson, Butcher and Mineka 1999). Treatment of Bulimia may consist of psychotherapy, antidepressant drugs, or both on some occasions. Recent reports suggest cognitive-behavioral therapy to be the treatment of choice, as far as efficacy (Kiss, 2000). Competitive comparison studies between CBT and medication, primarily anti depressants have shown CBT to be superior. The behavioral aspect of CBT predominately centered on normalizing eating habits in an attempt to eliminate binge-purge patterns.
CBT focuses on training Bulimic’s to eat small meals frequently, instead of bingeing occasionally (Carson, Butcher and Mineka 1999). The cognitive aspect looks into the dysfunctional thought patterns present in many bulimic patients. Besides Cognitive-Behavioral techniques, interpersonal psychotherapy has been proven moderately effective as well. Despite the superior effects of Psychotherapy, medication is used frequently in the treatment of bulimia. Fluoxitine, an antidepressant, is a drug for bulimic women, based on the theory that a chemical imbalance in the brain is the underlying cause. This theory is widely criticized and is believed to be suspect, considering the pharmacological industries need to profit (Hesse-Biber 120). Human Suffering Researching mental disorders through Christian eyes sheds an interesting light on the subject. Considering that Christians place huge emphasis on purity and healthy body maintenance it is curious that so many young women struggle with the degenerative patterns of eating disorders. I find it fascinating that our culture, through media, entertainment and advertising has influenced young Christian women enough to sacrifice health in an attempt to model the beauty norm established.
As Christians we are taught that our body is our temple, a gateway to god. The bodies we are given are blessings from God; our individuality is our greatest trait. It is extremely disturbing that modern culture has set a beauty standard, which cannot be attained by the majority of women, yet the longing for expectance has inspired the destruction of their God given temples. In a perfect world, women as well as men would be excepted and cherished the way they are, fat, slim, brunette, blond, short, or tall. However our not so perfect world there is lyppo-suction, breast augmentation, plastic surgery, makeup, Rogaine, and face lifts. Our culture is not satisfied by the ordinary.
In order to find acceptance people feel the need to alter their appearance. Bulimia and Anorexia are the most extreme attempts at alteration. God created each of us beautifully different people, yet we feel the urge to obliterate our uniqueness in order to fit a stereotypical, out of reach, appearance. Instead of embracing our differences we attempt to look the same by any means possible. Bulimia is the epitome of human suffering we have created a society in which some women must vomit their food in a futile attempt to squeeze into the lofty mold of American beauty. Living on a Christian College campus where the freshman 15 is a visible phenomenon, it is no wonder that over 15 million people suffer from eating disorders. Westmont is a perfect example, located in Santa Barbara, were the sun always shines, encouraging the baring of as much skin as possible.
Westmont shows that, for some Christians the desire for beauty is more important that the maintenance and homeostasis of their bodies. Bulimia will remain a constant issue for many women, unless our cultural perception of attractiveness changes. Struggling for accepectance in an exclusive society leads women to bodily destruction, and for what? So they can attempt to look like a computer image which doesnt even exist. American culture has made it impossible to feel accepted unless you look, smile and dress like Cindy Crawford. Psychology Essays.