Boyd 1 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, Boyd 2 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. Boyd 3 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 Boyd 4 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 Boyd 5 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 Boyd 6 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 consequences. Boyd 7 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. Print. 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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