Michelle Boyd by sofiaie


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Michelle Boyd

Instructor Jane Thompson

English 102 Section #12345

April 7, 2009

                         Research Paper: Eating Disorders

    Many people hope for the “perfect” body, the one they see in all the magazines.

When dieting and exercise do not give these people the results they want, many times

these individuals turn to eating disorders. In the United States eating disorders have

become a reoccurring problem. Anorexia and bulimia make up the two most common

eating disorders among all age groups. Anorexia and bulimia threaten the lives of

many people in the United States.

    Anorexia nervosa is a dangerous eating disorder that claims many victims.

Anorexia refers to “without appetite,” and nervosa relates to a nervous condition

(Kelley). Individuals with anorexia nervosa refuse to eat. If they do eat, they consume

only tiny bits of food, never enough food for a meal (Kelley). This condition is an

extremely complicated disorder, with multiple situations and causes as the victims

basically starve themselves to death. A victim of anorexia demonstrates modified

eating patterns and extreme weight loss (Kirkpatrick and Caldwell). Anorexia is also

referred to as “self-imposed starvation” (Moorey 1). As anorexics starve, they view

themselves differently from the rest of society. Often they see themselves as being fat,

no matter how thin they may be (Maxson). The distorted thinking is especially common

in younger anorexics; however, many women under the age of 50 have been diagnosed

with anorexia nervosa (Moorey). The disorder is often a mixture of emotional,
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psychological, and physical changes or problems. Anorexia nervosa can become

extremely serious and frequently requires intensive medical treatment (Maxson)

because without intervention, the victims or patients often die (Moorey).

   For individuals with anorexia, refusal to consume adequate and nutritious food

takes a toll on the body. The immune system is jeopardized, and the muscles become

weakened. The lack of nutrients can cause the hormones to become imbalanced,

resulting in physical changes such insomnia or cessation of menstrual periods for

females. Once the cardiovascular system undergoes trauma, the heart is at risk (Ortiz).

Anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate for what is considered a psychological

condition. Statistics show that after years of practicing starvation tactics, seven percent

of anorexics will die after ten years and twenty percent die after twenty years (Kelley).

Studies that focus on anorexia nervosa show that of all anorexics in the United States,

twenty-five percent will die, eventually, of complications related to the illness

(Kelley; Maxson; Ortiz). Although anorexia is one of the leading eating disorders, there

are other ways that individuals force themselves to stay thin, such as bulimia.

    Bulimia nervosa is much like anorexia in that bulimia is very serious, but affects its

victims quite different from anorexics. Victims of bulimia do not constantly deprive

themselves of food. The word bulimia means “great hunger” (Ortiz). In fact, bulimics

do just the opposite and consume large quantities of food at one time. Sometimes the

food equals over 10,000 calories at one sitting. The practice of eating huge amounts of

food all at once is called binging. However, once the food gets eaten, it does not stay in

the intestinal tract long enough to be digested (Moorey). Most bulimics, almost

immediately after eating, rid their bodies of the food by forcing themselves to vomit.
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This practice is called purging, as they empty their stomach of any food. Vomiting is the

most common form of purging, but some bulimics get rid of the food by using laxatives

or diuretics (Moorey). Laxatives are the most harmful method of purging because the

medication injures the intestinal tract and quickly causes often permanent damage to the

colon. Constant vomiting causes the esophagus to deteriorate, often along with the teeth

as the repeated stomach acids erode anything that comes into contract (Moorey). Some

bulimics also rely on daily enemas, another invasive procedure, to help the body cleanse

itself of any food particles in the colon (Moorey). The method of purging is commonly

alternated so that the individual does not experience the painful effects of the behavior,

such as indigestion with vomiting and intestinal gas and bloating with using laxatives

(Moorey). Getting the food out of the body is the goal, no matter what the means.

Occasionally, bulimics practice periods of starvation as well (“Eating Disorders”).

     Whichever methods anorexics or bulimics use to rid their bodies of the massive

quantities of food, these individuals have distorted body images, inaccurately seeing

themselves and fearing the idea of being fat (“Eating Disorders”). With the distorted

images, bulimics eat and purge, eat and purge, yet few experience noticeable weight

loss. Most bulimics tend to maintain an even weight, usually within the normal range.

Despite the normal weight, bulimics still see themselves as being overweight, failing to

live up to society’s standards. Because of the inability to meet society’s and their

own expectations, bulimics commonly demonstrate other additions, such as alcoholism

and drug abuse (Maxson). These behaviors of bulimics result in further psychological

problems even though the causes of their eating disorders may remain unknown.

    Although many studies have been performed to find the causes of anorexia and
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bulimia, no one consistent cause for these eating disorders has been pinpointed.

Multiple contributing factors and many different ideas attempt to explain why eating

disorders exist. One theory states that genetics, family history, and cultural

background can be attributed to the disorders, but many scientists and psychologists

argue about the precise combination (Ortiz). Most theories attribute some of the cause

to the added strain of society as a key role, leading individuals to alter their eating

behaviors in order to maintain thin body images seen in the media. Constant exposure

to these images puts pressure on people to desire model thin bodies and to strive for

the perfect body (“Eating Disorders”; Maxson). The media is not the only place where

stress of the ideal body is placed on people. Eating disorders are also common among

sports, as athletes pursue their ideal body types. While individuals seek the body they

want, their self-esteem is affected because that imagined body is never obtained. Often

low self-esteem plays a role in causing the eating disorder. In one study for eating

disorders, fifty-six percent of 4000 people in the survey stated that they were unhappy

with their overall appearance and that they experience deflated self-esteem (Payne).

Such perception leads to depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorders,

which regularly accompany eating disorders (“Eating Disorders”; Maxson; Payne).

Compound psychological problems can make the eating disorder that much more

harmful, as both males and females can use food as a way to solve their problems.

    Eating disorders can be experienced by both genders and can become serious

early in life. Some boys develop forms a desire to change their body types as

approximately one million boys every year suffer from having an eating disorder

(Costin). Usually these boys experience problems with eating and gaining weight while
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they are involved in sports. The boys with eating problems fail to seek treatment, thus

their eating disorders are difficult to diagnose (Costin). However, most eating disorder

victims are females, nearly ninety percent. Approximately ten million girls every year

suffer from eating disorders (Kelley). These disorders can begin as early as first grade.

Forty-two percent of third graders claim they would like to be thinner and eighty-one

percent of ten-year-old girls assert that they are afraid of getting fat. Fifty-one percent

of these girls say they feel better about themselves when they are on diets (Kelley).

These girls have fallen into the societal expectations of getting and staying thin, therefore

reinforcing the desire to manipulate food intake and practice anorexia or bulimia.

     The differences between eating disorders in girls and boys are not the only concerns

of doctors and psychologists. Often eating disorders are looked upon at a “young

person’s disease” (Gagon). When psychologists research eating disorders, they claim the

highest incidence remains in people ages ten to eighteen, but the illness spans many ages.

Research has shown that eating disorders among people forty-five or older have become

more prevalent. Not only teens and young adults feel occupied with staying stick thin

and living up to society’s standards. Studies for anorexia and bulimia are done on

patients from the ages of eighteen to sixty-five (Gagon). Despite the age of the victims,

these eating disorders become extremely dangerous to a person’s health.

    Individuals who practice anorexia or bulimia can find some treatment. Usually

patients are hospitalized to regulate eating and gain needed weight. Often medications

including antidepressants are prescribed. The individual with an eating disorder

undergoes psychological counseling that can involve the entire family. The treatment

most likely lasts months and sometimes years (Ortiz; Kirkpatrick and Caldwell). Early
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intervention appears to be the best way to treat eating disorders. Each treatment plan

must be specially designed to fit each individual (Ortiz) as no eating disorder is exactly

the same with the same causes.

    Some people turn to eating disorders to solve their problems and satisfy their images

of themselves. However, with anorexics and bulimics, these victims find that the eating

disorder can upset their psychological and physical health. Some victims seek treatment,

but for those who do not, anorexia and bulimia left untreated can end in devastating

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                                   Works Cited

Costin, Carolyn. The Eating Disorder Source Book. Los Angeles: RGA Publishing

    Group, 1996. Print.

“Eating Disorders: Anorexia and Bulimia.” Nemours Foundation – Teens’ Health,

    Nov. 2004. Web. 12 Mar. 2009.

Gagon, Louise. “Despite Image, Most Anorexics Over 45.” The Medical Post, 8 Oct.

    1996. Web. 12 Mar. 2009.

“General Eating Disorders Information.” National Eating Disorders Association, 2005.

   Web. 13 Mar. 2009.

Kelley, Tina. “Am I Too Fat?” 4 Apr. 2004: 6-8. MasterFILEPremier. ProQuest. Web.

    9 Mar. 2009.

Kirkpatrick, Jim, and Paul Caldwell. Eating Disorders [Everything You Need to Know].

   Buffalo: Firefly Book, Ltd, 2001. Print.

Maxson, Barbara. Personal interview. John C. Lincoln Hospital. 17 Mar. 2009.

Moorey, James. Living with Anorexia and Bulimia. New York: Manchester UP, 2003.


Ortiz, Melissa. “Battling Eating Disorders.” 29 Dec. 2004. LexisNexis. LexisNexis. Web.

   3 Apr. 2009.

Payne, January W. “Beyond Appearances: Anorexia’s Cause: Not Just Body

   Dissatisfaction.” The Washington Post 6 July 2004. MasterFILEPremier. ProQuest.

   Web. 6 Mar. 2009.

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