Explanations into Anorexia Nervosa PSYA3

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Psychological Explanations into AN - AO1

Cultural ideas and the media.

  • Cultural ideas- Western standards of attractiveness are a contributing factor to anorexia (tall, thin)
  • This causes women to become dissatisfied with their body/weight.
  • A national diet and nutrition survey found that 16% of 15-18 year old where on a diet.
  • Media influences- The western media shows very thin models and promotes being so thin as very attractive.
  • Low self-esteemed people are more likely to compare themselves to the 'perfect' images in the media.
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Psychological Explanations into AN - AO1

Ethnicity and Peer Influence.

  • Ethnicity- Black cultures have a lower AN rate than white white western cultures.
  • In a meta-analysis Caucasian and Hispanic cultures had a higher AN rate than african american cultures. (Grabe and Hyde)
  • In other cultures it shows the opposite were largeness is attractice such as Fiji and Carribean nations because being big means fertility.
  • Peer Influences- A US study showed that dieting among friends is likely to lead to diet pills and supplements.
  • Over weight girls and underweight boys were most likely to be teased by peers and consequently deveop and eating disorder. (Jones and Crawford)
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Psychologica Explanations into AN - AO1


  • Perfectionism- Perfectionism was found in young people with AN.
  • Boys & girls with AN were evaluated on their personality and found that 73% of girls had high levels of perfectionism and 50% of boys did also.
  • Impulsiveness- A control group were compared to the patients with AN and those with the disease responded impulsively, rapidly and innaccurayley to the task despite reporting low self-esteem.
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Psychological Explanations into AN - AO2

Cultural Ideas and the Media.

  • Research Support.
  • Cultural Ideas- In Curacao where it is acceptable to be overweight, out of 44,192 only 6 were reported cases of AN. (Hoek)
  • Media Influences- Once TVs had been introduced to Fiji the girls had more desire to loose weight and be like the ideals in the media.
  • Personality Perfectionism- AN sufferers who had low levels of perfectionism had the illness for a less amount of time compared to those with high levels.
  • Research Contradiction.
  • Ethnicity- No difference was found between white/black groups in eating disorders. (Cachelin and Regan)
  • Peer influences- No correlation was found among friends on measured disordered eating however a study of 10 year olds found a correlation between BMI result and teasing. (Shroff and Thompson)
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Psychological Explanations into AN - AO3

  • Ethical Issues- Researchers increasingley using internet sites which are pro-an. They include chatrooms, news and ideas. However using them in research raises the idea of ethical issues such as privacy, informed consent and confidentiality.
  • Real World application- The fashion industry in France signed a charter which meant that a more diverse size of models need to be used and not a stereotype the 'thin ideal'.
  • Gender Bias- Males do suffer from AN too but a lot of the studies shown are done on women and so cant be generalised.
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Biological Explanations into AN - AO1

Neural Explanations.

  • Neurotransmitters.
  • Serotonin- Serotonin levels were measured in recovering AN's, binge eaters and healthy women. The results showed a high level of serotonin in women recovering from binge eating and high anxiety levels.
  • Dopamine- PET scans compared dopamine levels in 10 women recovering from AN and 12 from healthy women. Results showed that increased dopamine activity was found in the basal ganglia of the AN sufferers and altered the way they perceived rewards.
  • Neurodevelopment.
  • Pregnancy- Premature birth has an association with AN developing. Also birth complecation can lead to brain damage and impair the neurodevelopment of a child.
  • Birth- There is a link between spring born children and the dev of AN.
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Biological Explanations into AN- AO1

Evolutionary Explanations.

  • Reproductive suppression hypothesis- Adolescent girls desire too loose weight represents an evolutionary adaptation to stop sexual maturation in respone to poor probability of survival. (Surby)
  • This hypothesis is based on the observation of other species which suppress puberty when females are subjected to stress or poor physical condition.
  • The adaptive to flee hypothesis-  Once someone feels hungry and show symptons of food restriction and starvation physiological mechanisms preserve energy and increase desire for food.
  • However when our ancestors experiences extreme food loss they moved to an area with more food available.
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Biological Explanations into AN - AO2

Biological Explanations.

  • Research Contradicton.
  • Serotonin- SSRI's alter serotonin levels which are ineffective on AN patients. However the drugs the drug helped to stop a relapse (Kaye)
  • Research Support.
  • Dopamine- increase levels of homovanillic acid (waste product of dopamine) in AN sufferers also decrease levels in obese people. (Castro-Fomieles)
  • Neurodevelopment- Prenatal complications associated with child developing AN and a low birth weight. (Favaro)
  • Those with lots of older siblings and exposed to infections in 2nd trimester (which would be winter) are more likely to have infections passed on to them. (Eagles)
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Biological Explanations into AN - AO2

Biological Explanations.

  • Research Support.
  • Reproductive suppression hypothesis- This is supported by the observatoin that the onset of puberty is delayed with AN.
  • Research Contradiction.
  • Problems associated with evolutionary explanations- AN goes against the theory that fertility is good to pass on genes and survivial of the fittest.
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Biological Explanations into AN - AO3

  • Real World Application- In the USA insurance companies dont accept suffering AN's for treatment as they dont class as a biological condition. However research has shown that it must be classed with other conditions such as schizophrenia.
  • Gender Bias- around 25% of the AN sufferers are male. This shows that its not just a female based condition and more attention should be payed to male research of the condition.
  • Reductionist- Ignores external factors such as media influence and peer influences and how this can effect our behaviour. (Fiji study)
  • Nature vs Nuture theory- this theory suggests that AN is nature because its in out genetics and is predetermined for us during pregnancy.
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