Biological Explanations for Anorexia Nervosa Essay Plan

Here's an essay plan on the subject of biological explanations for anorexia nervosa. Use it if you want, I chose these studies/explanations as they had the most to write on. When writing essays in psych remember about breadth and dept, 200 words approx for AO1 and 400 approx for AO2/3.


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  • Created on: 09-01-10 15:21
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Biological Explanations for Anorexia Nervosa Essay Plan
1. Describe in detail the two neural explanations for AN. Serotonin- Bailer compared serotonin
activity in women recovering from restricting-type anorexia (restricted food intake) and
binge-eating/purging with healthy controls. He found significantly higher serotonin activity in
women who showed the most anxiety. This therefore, implies that persistent disruption of
serotonin levels could lead to increased anxiety and this could trigger AN. Dopamine-Kaye
looked at PET scans and compared Dopamine levels of activity in the brains of ten women
recovering from AN and a control group of twelve healthy women. In the Anorexics, he
discovered overactivity in the Dopamine receptors. Dopamine is a key factor in the
interpretation of harm and pleasure. These increased levels seem to change the way in which
we think about rewards. Anorexics find it challenging to link good feelings with food.
2. Outline briefly The Reproductive Suppression Hypothesis- Surbey believe that adolescent
girls' desire to control their weight represents an evolutionary adaption in which ancestral
girls delayed the onset of sexual maturation in response to cues about the probability of
poor reproductive success. It is adaptive because it enables a female to avoid giving birth at
a time when conditions are not favourable to her offspring's survival.
3. Critical Point 1: The explanation about the neurotransmitter Serotonin is flawed. Researchers
have found that SSRI's are not effective when used with AN patients. As a result of this, the
theory seems to be incorrect as these drugs will help balance out the Serotonin levels,
meaning the AN patients experience less anxiety but this does not seem to work, therefore,
implying that Anorexia Nervosa cannot just been down to Serotonin levels.
4. Critical Point 2: Although, Kaye in 2001 found that if you use them with recovering anorexics,
they were good for stopping relapses. Therefore, there is evidence towards the explanation
for Serotonin activity being a key factor as well. Consequently, this suggests that Serotonin
does play a role in Anorexia Nervosa, but it is not the underlying factor. However, there is a
positive from this research as although they do not work with AN patients, they do seem to
prevent relapses.
5. Critical Point 3: There is strong evidence to support the theory about Dopamine levels. Wang
in 2001 found lower levels of Dopamine receptors in the brains of obese individuals. This
evidence consequently, proves the explanation useful and relevant to real cases as high
Dopamine levels have been associated with Anorexic Patients so you can control these
6. Critical Point 4: This theory has real life applications for it. For instance, there are a range of
drug therapies to normalise neurotransmitter levels and even gene-replacement therapy.
Another advantage of biological explanations is that people realise they are dealing with
dysfunctional biology, which is treatable, as opposed to a dysfunctional family, which often is
not. Although, the most important implication of this is that it reduces the guilt generated by
the view that it is parents who cause the development of eating disorders in their children.
7. Critical Point 5: However, reductionism is a significant issue to consider here as simplifying
the onset of Anorexia Nervosa down into just neurotransmitters levels and

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The processes are a lot more
complex than just balance the levels out and no one will get Anorexia Nervosa anymore.
There are many other factors to consider, for example the patients attitude to food and the
underlying problems they have such as body dismorphia.…read more


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