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Human Behavior - Essay Example

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The prevalence of eating disorders has become a subject of much controversy and debate in recent years. Before considering whether eating disorders might become more prevalent in the future it is useful to consider both the types of eating disorders that occur and also their probable causes…
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Human Behavior
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Download file to see previous pages Eating disorders "are complex conditions that arise from a combination of long-standing behavioral, emotional, psychological, interpersonal and social factors" (Costin, 1999). Many people with eating disorders use food and, more importantly, the control of food in an attempt to compensate for feelings, emotions and perhaps circumstances that are beyond their control. The control their eating because other parts of their life are uncontrollable and perhaps even overwhelming.
Two main types of eating disorder exist: anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa (Goodman, 2001). A more recent type of eating disorder, called "binge eating" has recently been recognized, although not in a universal manner by health authorities. Anorexia is characterized by a refusal to keep body weight at or near a minimum healthy level, the feeling that a person is "fat" even though they are very underweight and obsessive concern with body image and food. Anorexia normally shows itself through a person essentially slowly starving themselves over a long period of time. In bulimia excessive calories are taken in the form of food binges, often without relation to feelings of hunger. Soon afterwards this food is purged from the body, often through self-induced vomiting. Binge eating involves the massive intake of calories, but without the subsequent purging. Essentially binge eating can be defined as overeating habits over a long period of time, characterized by a feeling of "loss of control" while doing so.
While psychological, emotional, interpersonal and social factors are well known to produce some eating disorders, recent research has suggested that there may be some biochemical imbalances within the brain that may also lead to them. Thus the chemicals that control hunger, appetite and digestion have been found to be unbalanced in individuals with eating disorders (Costin, 1999). Whether these imbalances are the cause of the eating disorder or the result of it has yet to be determined.
So with the causes and characteristics of eating disorders in mind, the question remains as to whether they will become more prevalent. This dimension seems to rely upon the social factors that can contribute to eating disorders. Thus if popular culture - in film, advertising, the Internet - continues to glorify "thinness" as a health need, as a necessity in order to be considered attractive and also as a sign of virtue through the person showing signs of self-control, then the present levels of eating disorders may stay the same.
The increased prevalence of mass media within people's lives may suggest that such disorders may increase in number because the sheer intensity and amount of such messages being aimed at people, mainly young women will increase. One reason that eating disorders may increase is the apparently ever-lowering age at which pre-teens become conscious of their bodies in an adult manner. Thus the "tween" culture of 10-12 year-olds are increasingly showing signs of acting like 13-15 year-olds did several decades ago (Mitchell, 2005).
Girls at a much younger age may well start to show signs of eating disorders and thus the overall prevalence of them will go up. This age group is particularly vulnerable for a number of reasons. First, the relatively immature emotional development make them easy targets for the sophisticated advertising campaigns ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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