The Effect of Psychological Factors on Anorexia Nervosa

The Effect of Psychological Factors on Anorexia Nervosa
In the research to explain whether anorexia nervosa is caused by psychological factors several explanations were given. The ?Psychodynamic explanation? being one of the main ones suggests that ?one? is motivated to behave the way they do by unconscious and often repressed desires that featured in their past. For example someone doesn?t want to grow up, set off in to adulthood, instead they want to remain a child; not eating helps them to do this as it ?preserves childhood?. What makes it easier for them to do this is the support from the mother. She wants to take care of a child and to feel needed; thus by having a frail and sick child keeps the mother/daughter relationship going. Another reason came from Freud who stated that eating is a substitute for sexual expression; one who doesn?t eat is avoiding their sexuality or repressing their sexual impulses.
For example someone may not want to admit to their sexuality or is nervous about their first sexual experience that they avoid eating to get rid of the frustrations. However this explanation can not be completely trusted as it is difficult to find empirical support or evidence as unconscious desires are abstract entities and un test-able. Some strength?s can be seen from this explanation; the theory of it being because of repressed sexual impulses supports another study carried out by Wonderlich et al prior. The Behavioural explanation suggests that all our behaviour is learned through the reinforcements we get for it. If certain behaviour is positively reinforced we are more likely to repeat it. For example when one loses weight they receive compliments. Another example can be the profession of that person, usually ballet dancers, gymnasts and other professions with demanding activities that requires you to be slim. A high percentage of anorexia cases do one of these jobs. However this doesn?t tell us how we get the disorder, just how we keep it. It also can?t be a definite explanation as it would basically mean almost everyone should have it. It overlooks the importance of cognitive factors, such as distorted and faulty ideas about body weight. The only clear strength of this explanation is that its positive reinforcements can promote weight gain in some with anorexia. The Cognitive explanation focuses on the thought processes that may underlie certain behaviour. For example people may hold the irrational belief that they cannot be valued unless they have the ideal appearance; thinking things such as ?I must lose more weight since I am not yet thin?. Button et al tried to prove this with an experiment (questionnaire) on a group of girls at certain ages. From this approach it is hard to justify it as the thoughts of the person can not be verified, nor can the questions asked be completely appropriate for the person answering them. In conclusion many factors including biological, family relationships and reinforcements all contribute to the disorder in some way. The lack of any clear support for any of the explanations leaves it as a weak explanation for the psychological cause of anorexia.

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