In the present days, eating disorders become a serious public health concern. By definition, an eating disorder is an illness causing serious disturbances of a person’s diet, which can be reflected either in overeating or in eating extremely small amounts of food (National Institute of Mental Health, 2011). These disorders influence people a lot, have many side effects, as well as negative consequences for health and psychological condition of a person. They can lead to extremely threatening illnesses, which will require a serious and long treatment. One of the main examples of eating disorders is obesity, as well as anorexia and bulimia. They become more wide-spread in the present days and require extensive research on the topic of their emergence, behavior and treatment.
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The chosen study takes anorexia and bulimia as an area of study, and it is targeted on adolescent girls, as a part of population which is mostly touched by the issue of eating disorders. It is a well-known fact that adolescent girls are more likely to be diagnosed with eating disorders due to various reasons, which include health issues, psychological problems, lack of communication with peers, family problems, low self-esteem, and so on. Therefore, selecting this group of people for the research is determined by the high rates of eating disorders incidence among women and adolescent girls.
The chosen research covers the following aspects. Firstly, it examines the way adolescent girls and women become prone to eating disorders and names principal reasons for that. In addition, it mentions the way such eating disorders as anorexia and bulimia emerge and the way they progress. After that, it covers the main side effects and consequences. Another important part of the research is to understand the way these disorders can be avoided.
The results of previous researches, statistic data and information from articles on the chosen topic taken in competent sources contribute to the research and constitute the main part of the chosen study. Its significance is obvious, since the issue of eating disorders is topical nowadays. The research uses quantitative method. Therefore, the research study tool includes the following methods of investigation: theoretical analysis, inductive and deductive methods, literature research, and statistical method.
The rationale of the chosen research is determined by the following. First of all, as it has been mentioned above, the female population is more likely to have eating disorders in comparison to males. Thus, it is estimated that about 5 to 10 million adolescent girls and women are diagnosed with eating disorders, while the number of males with that problem is usually about only 1 million (National Disorders Association). Therefore, researching eating disorders among adolescent girls is an essential topic in the present days.
The fact that women and girls are more prone to eating disorders is connected with the commonly accepted image of the way a beautiful woman should look like (American Psychological Association). This image is mostly imposed by the media, which show thin women and celebrate their beauty. If a woman or a girl is not happy with her shape and sees that it does not conform to the image which is considered to be “perfect”, she may decide to do something with it. As a result, she starts sticking to a strict diet and exhausts herself with excessive sport exercises. This leadsto various physical and psychological problems, especially when she sees that the result does not come as quickly as she wanted to. Due to that, a woman may feel guilty or ashamed of the way she looks and as a result, she will most likely exhaust herself even more.
There are also other factors that can contribute to eating disorders. These factors are not solely about food and weight preoccupations and they include the following. Such psychological factors as low self-esteem, feeling of lack of control in life, depression, anger, stress, anxiety, loneliness, and so on may also cause eating disorders, as well as troubled personal relationships, facts of being ridiculed because of the size or weight, discrimination, and other serious psychological issues (National Disorders Association). In addition, biological factors can also contribute to the emergence of eating disorders, because the majority of adolescents with eating disorders have parents or siblings with a similar problem.
Types of Eating Disorders
As the subsequent significant part of the study, the chosen research examines the way eating disorders emerge and take course on the example of such disorders as bulimia and anorexia, which are considered to be the most wide-spread types.
Anorexia, scientifically called as anorexia nervosa, is usually characterized by a strong fear of being obese and by a pursuit of becoming thin (Mandal, n.d.). Its other characteristics include the unwillingness to maintain a normal or heavy weight, an extreme emaciation, lack or absence of menstruation among girls and women, and other symptoms (National Institute of Mental Health, 2011). Women with this disorder have a distorted body image that makes them think that they are overweight, even though they can already be dangerously thin. They refuse to eat and may even starve to death (American Psychological Association).
Bulimia nervosa is another type of eating disorder. The individuals with it eat excessively and then purge their bodies of the food by vomiting or using laxatives (American Psychological Association). Thus, such people are not able to control their eating habits (Stanford School of Medicine). Bulimia’s side effects reflect in swollen salivary glands, worn tooth enamel, severe dehydration, chronically inflamed and sore throat, and so on (National Institute of Mental Health, 2011). Unlike anorexics, people with bulimia are usually close to their normal body weight and are less recognizable (Mandal, n.d.).
It is important to remember that whenever disturbances of a diet become destructive for one’s health, it is essential to notice and realize the problem and to see a specialist on this matter, such as an experienced psychologist in order to avoid the possible consequences, which will be studied further.
Eating disorders can be rather dangerous. They can lead to more serious illnesses and even to death. For example, according to statistics, anorexia has the highest mortality rate among mental illnesses and estimates about 10-20 percent of lethal cases (Eating Disorders Coalition). In addition, anorexics are 57 times more inclined to suicide than their peers, because depression and anxiety are also among possible consequences. Other serious outcomes include brain damage, infertility, cardiac arrhythmia, osteoporosis, inability to concentrate, memory loss, heart attacks, and others (Eating Disorders Coalition).
Certainly, eating disorders can and need to be treated. The treatment program needs to include specific forms of psychotherapy in addition to medication treatment. In accordance with individual needs, the treatment may also include individual, group, or family therapy and monitoring (National Institute of Mental Health, 2011). Sometimes, it is also required to hospitalize a patient in order to make sure that they eat enough, especially in case they are very underweight and are not willing to gain weight.
It is also important to note that the earlier an eating disorder is detected, the easier it is to treat it. The majority of people eventually recover from it, even though the treatment may take months or even years (Mandal, n.d.). There is also a need to be aware that in several years after a recovery, relapse can take place due to certain stressful events, such us weight changes after childbirth (Guzman, n.d.), so the patient and her family needs to be ready for that.
The conducted studies display that family issues can be related with eating disorders. For example, such problems as unhealthy family environment, parental coercion, strong feelings of diets, and image criticism of daughters or detrimental beliefs about weight in the family can contribute to the condition of a girl (Gillett et al., 2009). Therefore, being able to notice the changes in a daughter’s condition, family members should be able to understand that there is something wrong with her. As people say, it is better to avoid an illness than to treat it. So, families need to pay attention to their daughters and do their best in order to avoid the emergence of eating disorders.
One of the possible ways to prevent an eating disorder is decreasing negative factors, such as body dissatisfaction, low self-esteem, and depression, and raising protective factors, such as non-appearance oriented self-definition, intuitive eating, and appreciation for the body (National Eating Disorders Association). Also, it is obvious that healthy relationships within the family and among peers are essential, as well as the understanding that the excessive weight loss will not bring more friends, love and appreciation. A girl should understand that she needs to appreciate herself first of all and respect her inner self and her body.
The chosen research covers the topic of eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia among adolescent girls. As it has been mentioned above, the research study tool included such methods of investigation as theoretical analysis, inductive and deductive methods, literature research, and statistical method. The data was mostly collected and assessed using articles and surveys of community based organizations, such as the Eating Disorder Coalition, National Eating Disorders Association, and others.
To sum up, eating disorders can bring a severe harm to their health and functioning, lead to more serious diseases and even to death. Therefore, girls and their families and peers need to pay attention to their condition and remember that the earlier the disorder is detected, the easier it will be to recover from it. However, it is obvious that the best way is not to let the disorders occur at all. Thus, healthy communication and understanding that health is the essential aspect of life can help to avoid eating disorders.