Psychological explanation of AN

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  • Created by: Natasha
  • Created on: 27-12-12 10:18

A01 Psychodynamic

One psychological explaination for anorexia nervosa is the psychodynamic approach, developed by Sigmound Freud that proposes the development of AN in an individual is due to earlt childhood experiences, that may led to conflicts between unconscious and conscious  parts of the mind (egp, superego and id) resulting in repressed emotions. The theory proposes that these emotions are repressed into the unconscious mind where they exert an influence on our behaviour and in relation to AN, to avoid food and control weight. 

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A02 Bruch, ineffective parents

Supporting the psychodynamic approach, Bruch (1973) claimed that parents who fail to respond to their child's needs known as ineffective parents, may cause the child to grow up confused about their internal needs and consequently the child will become overly reliant on their parents to fulfil these needs. For example, if a child cries because they are anxious, an ineffective parent may feed them, or comfort them when they are hungry. Bruch claimed that adolescence increase a desire to establish autonomy, bu a child from ineffective parents may feel they are unable to do so and as a result feel they do not own their own bodies. To overcome their sense of helplessness, they take excessive control over their body shape as eating behaviour is one area the child can control; which leads to the development of AN. 

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A02 Nature/nurture

However, the psychodynamic approach and Bruch's study only focuses on the idea of nurture influencing the development of AN and ifnores the influence that nature may have on developing AN. Consequently these explainations may not provide a fullr understanding of developing this eating disorder, therefore may lack geralization to the target population as others may develop AN maybe influenec by nature not nurture. For example, research has shown genetics plays a part in the development of AN (Bulik et al) therefore there are other factors that need to be considered when explainaing AN, therefore the psychodynamic explaination may lack in validty.

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A02 Hypothetical

Subsequently, the psychodynamic approach is difficult to falsify as the explaination suggests that we develop conditions such as AN through conflict of ego, superego and id which may led to repressed unconscious emotions that influence our behaviour. These unconscious features of the psychodynamic approach are difficult to test if they are right or wrong, theregore the explaination can be critised of not being truely scientifyc as they are hypotheical reasoning - relying on the idea that there is an unconscious yet it cannot be observed by any objective means, furthering the idea that psychodynamic approach may lack in internal validity as we cannot be sure that the unconscious exists. 

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A02 Subjective

Furthermore, if dignosing someone through the idea that the unconscious eixsts there interpretations may vary between psychologist, limiting our understanding of the development of AN due to its lack in reliability, for example one psychodynamic psychologist may interpret the development of AN stemmed from an individual's potty training, while another psychologist may intrerpret the same individual developing AN from parental conflicys. On the other hand, if the explainations differ between individuals this indicates that individual differences are being considered when using the psychodynamic approach to identify AN, giving it higher ecological validity as in reality no individual has the same experiences to another. 

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A01 Remain pre-pubesent

Another psychodynamic explaination suggetss AN may develop due to an unconsious effect to remain pre-pubescent (crisp). This is because in order to reach puberty, girls must have a certain level of body fat and have a menstrual cycle; these two features are prevented in development of anoerexia. This suggets the girl has an unconscious desire to remain in a childhood state as amenorrhoea (loss of menstrual cycle) prevents a girl becoming pregnant and low body fat would make a girl appear smaller and subsequently appear younger. Crisp suggests that development of AN is the result of the child feeling unable to cope with the demands of adulthood and by prologing the pre-pubescent state they may be able to stay under their parents care for longer, avoiding adulthood demands. 

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A02 Symptom with cause

Challenging these claims, the psychodynamic approach is subjective and consquently can be accused for confusing symtoms with cause. For example, Crisp suggests that girls develop anorexia because they want to remain childlike. However, the characteristics for an anorexis that lead to this consclusion (such as loss of menstrual cycle and weight loss) are the clinical symptoms of anoerexia identified by DSM-IV-TR, reducing the explainaion's reliability and limiting our overall understanding of the causes of AN. 

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A02 Gender bias

In addition, Crip's research and many other psychodynamic research conducted into the causes of AN to provide an explaination, has mainly focused on females developing AN not males. Therefore  this approach has a gender bias consquently making it difficult to generalise this research to males as they have been found to differ to females throughout psychology. An obvious example is that males do not menstruate making Crisp's AN explaination not suitable, as a result limit our understanding of the development of AN, as there are less explainations and less research for the development of AN in males than there are for females.

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A02 Reductionist

Additionally, the psychodynamic theory is reductionist as it only focuses on the idea that our unconscious influences our behaviour and ignores the influence of other psychological factors that have been proven to affect eating behaviour, such as media and cultural differances. Therefore this suggests that eating behaviour cannot be controlled only by unsconsious thoughts, as research into othese other areas suggets eating disorer are complex and canot be only developed by one factor.  

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A02 Limits treatment

Furthermore, if we was just to accept psychodynamic approach as ebing the only causse of developing AN, our understanding of the illness would be limited and as a result the therapies to treat AN would in turn be limited. Even though psychodynmic treatment such as dream analysis has been proven to be effective in the treatment of some mental disorders, this treatment may not be suitable for every individual as they may not have been all influenced by psychological factors, therefore the theory lacks in external valdity. 

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Extras for media and/or culture

It is often suggested that the media is a major source of influence for the body image attiudes maintained by Western socities. For example, the portrayal of thin models on televison and in magazines is a significant contributing factor in body image concerns and the drive for thinness among Western adolescent's girls. There as been a vast change in attiudes of what is 'healthy and attractive' as today's ideas are polar opposites to those of around 150 years ago. 

However, the media does not influence everyone in the same way, for example individuals with low self-esteem are more likely to compare themselves to idealised images portrayed in the media (Jones and Buckingham,2005). This study suggests that the media has an influence over everyone but for some it is more obvious than others. It is this aspiration to the media's ideas of perfection, which can oftern make it difficult to distinguish between media and cultural influences. 

Supporting this idea, Becker and al (2002) studied eating attiudes and behaviours among adolescent Fijian girls following the introduction of televison in 1995. They found that the girls stated a desire to lose weight and become more likely westenr televison stars. This shows that, even though media is Westernized, it can still have influence non-western cultures. And the fact the Fijian girls want to look like western stars and have never seen televison before, emphasises the impact that media can have on an individuals mind set. 

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On the other hand, this change may not be the most reliable evidence to support differances between media and cultures due to cultural bias, the other culture may interpret body images differently to Western societies or that Western cultures are so used to the barrage of perfection that they are less affected than the Fijian's who had never experienced media beforehand. 

However if Western cultures have become less afffected than  the Fijians to the influence of mediam then why is there still a large amount of Western people who still suffer from AN? One criticism of the influence of media on developin AN is that as it is purely behavioural approach, therefore reductionit as it does not allow for the biological idea that some are predisposed to developing AN by genes. This could be the reason why certain culturals and individuals develop AN. On the other hand there are also many people who have predispositions to certain illnesses by their genetic makeup but they do not go on to developing these illnesses. This suggests that there may be some enviromental triggers to the development of AN, this emphasises the complexity of human development. Therefore, limiting ourselves to just biological or psychological reasoning, limits our overall explaination for why people develop AN. 

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