Eating problems such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa may stem from various sources. Food has a powerful symbolic value to the individual and the family. It can be used as a comfort in times of stress, it can also be used as a reward be parents, and to manipulate parents by young children. Food has a special significance to women, who are traditionally responsible for its purchase and preparation. Significantly, it is mainly women who suffer most from eating disorders. In Western culture, women are also taught to be very aware of their physical shape. Body image is important in the development of our self-esteem and social confidence. The proposed origins of eating disorders are: early childhood eating difficulties; family and parental stress; sexual abuse; perfectionism; psychosexual conflict; distorted body image; feeling of not being in control of your own life; stressful life events; social class (the majority of sufferers from middle/upper class); dieting.
Psychological characteristics of anorexia nervosa
Fear of weight gain, feelings of anxiety and tension with the smallest gain.
Distorted body image, seeing oneself as huge with evidence to the contrary.
Denial of having eating disorder.
Fear of losing control, living in fear of eating huge amounts of food.
Distorted perception of food.
Narrowing of interests, focus on diet.
Guilt and loss of self esteem, feelings of helplessness.
Physical effects of prolonged starvation in anorexia nervosa
Severe emaciation, could be life-threatening.
Mild hypothermia, constantly feeling cold.
Low blood pressure, slow pulse.
Chronic diarrhoea and/or constipation.
Hair growth on arms and back.
Damage to teeth enamel from stomach acid.
Hair, nails and skin in dry, deteriorated condition.
Stop of menstruation (though it may continue if on oral menstruation)
Behavioural strategies of the anorexic person
Very strict dieting, taking pleasure in watching others eat.
Missing meals, getting up late to miss breakfast, going out early to skip dinner.
Eating very slowly, playing with food, chewing very slowly.
Secretly disposing of food, putting it into the bin, handbags etc.
Wearing loose clothes to disguise the weight-loss.
Laxative abuse, to purge food from the system.
Self-induced vomitting, if they are in a situation where they have to eat.
Excessive activity and exercise to increase weight loss and divert attention away from food.