Psychosocial Factors Associated with Anorexia Nervosa Essay Example

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Psychosocial Factors Associated with Anorexia Nervosa


Anorexia Nervosa is an eating disorder whose characteristics include great fear of increasing weight, disfigured notion of body weight and a below minimum body weight. The common patients of the disorder are young women and adolescent girls. The ailment affects the psychological and social functioning of the victims. Whereas anorexia nervosa is mostly spotted among females, normally during their adolescence, or belatedly after menopause, it also affects men. The actual cause of Anorexia Nervosa still remains mysterious. However, professionals believe that it is a mixture of social, environmental, psychological and biological factors. One of the psychological Anorexia’s causes might be a powerful, even excessive force for perfectionism. The study of psychosocial factors associated with Anorexia Nervosa is faced with a number of limitations. For example, the social learning explanation of the media is reductionist. As such, it is incapable of accounting for the reasons that all females never become victims of Anorexia Nervosa, while they face similar pressures from the same media.

Psychosocial Factors Associated with Anorexia Nervosa


Anorexia Nervosa is also known as Anorexia. It is an eating disorder pigeonholed by great fear of obtaining weight, a distorted body weight’s notion and an unusually low body weight (Treasure, 2013). Individuals having anorexia put more of their concerted efforts on controlling their shape and weight that eventually greatly affect their lives’ activities. For the purposes of continuing losing weight or avoiding weight gain, anorexia victims normally strictly limit their food intakes. In addition, the victims attempt to lose their weight through doing excessive exercises. Young women and adolescent girls are the common people who suffer from anorexia nervosa. The ailment affects the psychological and social functioning of the victims. Whereas anorexia nervosa is mostly spotted among females, normally during their adolescence, or belatedly after menopause, it also affects men.

Treasure (2013) further notes that rising numbers of racial minorities are facing more danger of suffering from those ravaging disorders. Individuals having anorexia nervosa frequently find treatment exclusively as a result of people near them telling them that their lives might be in looming danger. However, they often refuse that they have a disorder. The actual cause of anorexia nervosa is still not known. However, professionals believe that it is a mixture of social (environmental), psychological and biological factors. Cultural and media influences are blamed for being the cause of increased Anorexia Nervosa. For example, some people are said to copy what they see and hear from their families/friends and media making them change their lifestyles completely. Therefore, this paper reviews the psychosocial (psychological and social) factors associated with anorexia nervosa.

Literature Review

Eating ailments are complicated disorders that are influenced by various factors. Treasure (2013) argues that despite the eating disorders’ cause remaining mysterious, generally, it is deemed that a mixture of social and psychological abnormalities trigger the development of those disorders.

Social Factors Associated With Anorexia Nervosa

Treasure (2013) asserts that one of the factors that cause anorexia nervosa connects to the women’s cultural pressure, diet, and the presumption of thin body shapes. As such, the relatively contemporary anticipation for thinness is particularly the focus on women especially those in the upper social category. Thinness seems to be a manifestation of a modern sign of success
and beauty. The appropriate body structure has in fact changed with time and between various cultures. For example, Toro, et al (2006) concedes that in the past two decades, the Western cultures have altered the ideal women’s shape toward thinner models. This can be evidenced by Miss America Pageant contestants and magazine centrefolds data revelation of the big trend toward the model.
Those changes have happened in the framework of escalating US’s standard weight traditions for young ladies. The repercussion of this aesthetic model is demonstrated by the women’s dieting pervasiveness. Schmidt & Treasure (2010) demonstrates that owing to the ideal attractiveness of culture of thinness, peers and families encourage eating disorders and offer negative messages to both children and peers. Some researchers point out that, eating disorder of an individual originates from the technique of interacting with the family, for example, Nilson, Abrahamsson, Torbiornsson & Hagglof (2007). Various case studies and reports concerning family interaction reveal eating-disordered families as being hostile, intrusive and enmeshed. Additionally, they exhibit counteracting of the emotional demands or general excessive concern with parenting (Durand & Barlow, 2015). In Gibson, et al (2007) view, high expectations from the family, specifically the moment their appearance comes in, fathers/mothers sometimes excessively involve themselves with their kids, mainly their daughters. According to Grange, Lock, Loeb, & Nicholls (2010) those relationship hardships between child and parent, frequently display themselves via food. In some instances, the child or parent wrongly uses food to reward, show love, display power, to punish or to obtain control. Honey & Halse (2006) point seems to be that such behaviours destroy the child’s crucial functions of eating and feeding. Treasure, Sepulveda, Whitaker, Todd Lopez, & Whitney (2007) recognizes that children get influenced by the parents who are always making criticisms of their personal body shape and picture in possessing a pessimistic outlook of themselves. They note that such children adopt their parents’ perception of the negativity of their images.

It is not only the parents who influence their children negatively, but peers also have the capability of playing roles in causing Anorexia Nervosa. For example, an adolescent girl builds up feelings and thoughts regarding the usefulness of being slim and learns to execute behaviours such as purging and dieting from her age mates (Sim, Homme, Lteif, Voord, Schak, & Ellingson, 2009). Eisler, Simic, Russel & Christopher (2007) propose that the learning of such behaviours is through, for
instance, inspiration, or, mockery for failing to comply with traditions of peers. According to Hebebrand (2009) a critical comment about appearance or weight by a prominent person, a peer, or, a relative might cause a heightened beginning of Anorexia Nervosa.

The John Bowlby’s attachment hypothesis focuses on the manner early interactions between caregivers and babies are vital in forming adjustment strategies which become rather stable all through life. According to Holmes (2014) the attachment hypothesis is divided into two proportions: avoidance and anxiety. For instance, Bowlby (2012) acknowledges that persons having elevated attachment have a tendency of depending on other individuals for their physical appearance’s acceptance. Further, Holmes (2014) put forward that, for such individuals, the dissatisfaction of the body is correlated to their increased rejection’s fear and lessened self-esteem. However, this is not a sufficient declaration as an individual might get dissatisfied with his/her body and do nothing about it.

The core factor which determines if an individual is achieving an appropriate body is if the person recognizes the shape and weight as being the answer to control and identity’s problems. In order to establish enhancement in body image and self-esteem’s pride, anorexics acquire control of their bodies and eating norms. Eventually, this causes destructive activities that give rise to a reassessment of themselves leading to an augment of self-respect. However, Mendle, Turkheimer, & Emery (2007) identifies that anorexics never attain confidence levels as they are often seeing faults, even at the moments that they are shrunken. The psychodynamic explanation offered here is sensible that experiences of childhood are features in the build up of eating disorders, for example, Anorexia Nervosa. Thus, it possesses face validity (Nick & Redshaw, 2011). However, the description is deterministic since it does not offer sufficient thought to grown-up experiences and allegations that early childhood experiences develop to anorexia. Additionally, the explanation is reductionist due to ignoring social factors together with issues like gender disparities within eating habits. Moreover, the explanation does not have scientific legitimacy and is difficult to test. Furthermore, the majority of the ideas are unclear and it is impossible to put them into practice.

Importantly, cultural factors are also associated with the amplified widespread causes of Anorexia Nervosa. Shelly, Monique, & Shibley (2008) recognize that a possible association between anorexic attitudes and eating manners, and an individual’s contact with the idealization of mass media is extensively known as Anorexia Nervosa’s co-factor. Nowadays, the media are frequently held responsible for the rising occurrence and influence of romanticizing prettiness by marketing and promoting different products. According to Levine & Murnen (2009) the aim of marketing and promoting products such as dietary supplements is instituting style and beauty in an effort to oblige or motivate individuals to attain the preferred slimness’ beauty.

The provided advertisements and messages availed on magazines, television and movies influence men and women’s perfect yardstick of beauty, and the manner they ought to behave and look (Sampasa-Kanyinga, Chaput, & Hamilton, 2016). O’Hara & Smith (2007) argues that blame is laid on the media on deforming the truth, in that the celebrities and models shown are either unnaturally or naturally thin. However, this is deceptive portrayal because a lot of editing is sometimes engaged in advertisements in order to eliminate the physical defects possessed by celebrities. Wijbrand (2006) demonstrates that defects like cellulite, pimples, and acne are removed for the purpose of making them appear thinner than they look with the aim of influencing others that, that is the standard. However, this social learning explanation of the media is reductionist. As such, it is incapable of accounting for the reasons that all females never become victims of Anorexia Nervosa, while they face similar pressures from the same media.Various studies have discovered that Anorexia cases are present in all parts of the world (Macsween, 2013). The studies summarize that, though rising pressure to be slim and cultural factors might influence Anorexia Nervosa’s rates, there are other factors apart from them that elucidate Anorexia causes’. It would appear that juvenile females who are by now prone are liable to suffer from Anorexia more without, or, with media, or, social influence. Importantly, the social learning elucidation of Anorexia overlooks the genetic factors’ role in contributing to eating muddles, although there is a powerful proof for genetic contribution from infants and family studies. Thus, it becomes hard to ascertain categorically if it is nurture and nature that causes Anorexia, making this description reductionist and oversimplified.

Psychological Factors Associated With Anorexia Nervosa

Perfectionist, obsessive body dissatisfaction, and low self-respect characteristics are the issues that are specific in recognizing Anorexia Nervosa’s personal risk factors. Strober, Freeman, Lampert & Diamond (2007) indicates that trauma, physical and verbal abuse are connected to Anorexia Nervosa. Parling (2011) explores the notion that laughing at an individual’s body shape or appearance causes a pessimistic body image, increased symptoms of anorexia and a lesser self-respect. In order to prevent those experiences, Anorexia Nervosa patients’ drastically alters their lifestyles for the purposes of obtaining control over their bodies’ looks and feelings. Such patients perceive that following the loss of their superfluous weight, the abuse which they once received would not be experienced. However, that is the irony of their thoughts since the abuse they claim to be receiving emanates from themselves and not from their colleagues.

The majority of individuals who are attacked by Anorexia Nervosa usually display lesser echelons of pessimistic body image and self-respect that is capable of emanating from multiple variables. Papadopoulos, Ekbom, Brandt & Ekselius (2008) reveals that the diagnostic principles for anorexia are: the gaining weight’s fears and perception of oneself as being overweight. The wide outline of negative body picture comprises of both body misperception and body dissatisfaction. As such, the perception of a person of their own body gets disfigured than their real size of their
body. The other individual risk factors contributing to Anorexia Nervosa comprise of the cognitive factors. Anorexia Nervosa is characterized by a number of cognitive irregularities, for example, perfectionist, and obsessive characteristics.

Research signifies that roughly 40% of persons having Anorexia Nervosa possess obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) (Bissada, Tasca, Barber & Bradwejn 2008). Davis & Kaptein (2006) acknowledges that OCD is pigeonholed by different repetitive, intrusive and unwanted behaviours or thoughts which are unhelpful and senseless. Despite Anorexia Nervosa’s victims being pathologically underweight, they consider themselves as being fat or just average individuals. In the view of Garner, Olmsted, Bohr & Garnfikel (2009) they possess a desire for thinness making them struggle in having the best suitable body image. Watson & Skinner (2012) argues that in the struggle for an enhancement in body satisfaction and self-esteem, anorexics are inclined to use a lot of their time preoccupying over physical appearance associated with weight/shape, eating/food and other correlated matters which are excessively compulsive.

Studies indicate that roughly 20% of individuals having Anorexia Nervosa- and particularly limiting anorexics- find obsessive notions as comforting (Crane & Roberts 2007). As such, they do not desire those thoughts to be removed from them. Moreover, in excess of half of the anorexics consider the obsessions as being egosyntonic. Put in another way, the belief of anorexics is that they possess no Anorexia Nervosa problem. Sherman, et al (2006) asserts that both in connection to OCD and as a latent risk factor, compulsivity and perfectionism have been recognized as other factors leading to the Anorexia Nervosa development. Redshaw & Nick (2010) suggests that perfectionism is pigeonholed by the inclination of pursuing and setting impractical unique standards in spite of the prevalence of unpleasant outcomes.

One of the present studies has found that mothers of persons having Anorexia Nervosa have portrayed proof of augmented perfectionism levels and desire for thinness proportionate to age-matched and gender controls
(Kaye, Fudge & Paulus,2009). Altman & Shankman (2009) investigates the idea that within psychoanalytic work, individuals having obsessive-compulsive signs are described as being cruel within self-criticism as well as in their struggle for perfecting their bodies. The other contributing factor to perfectionism is the desire for being liked or pleasing other people. Persons having Anorexia Nervosa go an extra mile in perfecting their bodies in order for their peers, families or groups to accept them.

Several people having Anorexia Nervosa become ashamed and embarrassed of their personal bodies. According to Zipfel, et al (2014) anorexics hold on their lives at the expense of other individuals and turn it the final pursuit of changing their lives to acquire the body figure which is perfect. However, similar to other psychological descriptions, cognitive explanations does not consider other critical issues like genetics as well as social factors in elucidating anorexia. Thus, the cognitive explanation is reductionist and oversimplified. In addition, the irrational and faulty notions might not be the cause, but a consequence of the eating muddle.


The specific causes of Anorexia Nervosa are hard to determine. As such, the belief of experts is that Anorexia emanates from a mixture of social, psychological and biological factors. Individuals having Anorexia are inclined to possess low-self respect and low-self worth in contrast to other persons. In addition, Anorexics portray obsessive manners concerning diets and food, and might frequently as well show obsessive-compulsive individuality characteristics within other life’s parts. The study of psychosocial factors associated with Anorexia Nervosa is faced with some limitations, for example, the social learning explanation of the media is reductionist. An incorporated study into social, developmental, biological and genetic perspectives in connection to Anorexia Nervosa is continuing despite being faced with several difficulties. Despite concerted efforts on the study more research is demanded on the gene-environment interaction which has barely been done.


There are a number of diagnostic criteria for Anorexia Nervosa. The first criterion is a limitation of energy consumption in relation to the requirements. As a result of energy intake limitation, individuals lose their body weights greatly in the milieu of physical health, age, development trajectory, and sex. Great loss of weight means weight which is less than normal minimum weight. It also means in adolescents and children, a weight that is less than the minimum expectation. The second diagnostic criterion is the great fear of becoming plump or increasing weight. As such, the extreme fear makes individuals apply any method that would assist them in losing huge amounts of weight.

The other diagnostic criterion is the disturbance of mind as a result of one’s current state of shape or mind. The disturbance causes an individual not to recognize his/her current changed body’s shape or reduced body weight. As such, the anorexic continues with whatever she/he was doing in order to have the ideal body weight or shape. I have learned that high expectations from the family, specifically the moment their appearance comes in, fathers/mothers sometimes excessively intervene with their kids, mainly their daughters. As such, parents can use food to change the behaviour of a child. For instance, a mother might refuse to give her daughter food due to failing her examinations. Unfortunately, instead of working hard to pass examinations and stop being denied food, the daughter slowly develops low self-esteem and the habit of not eating.

This makes her start losing weight without anybody’s knowledge. When such a girl grows up, it becomes hard for her to be eating the right amounts of food. Finally, she ends up with a weight below the expected minimum, and therefore diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa. I have also learned that Western culture underpins a wish for thinness, and frequently shows intense, unfeasible thinness as attractive through famous actors and models. As a result, it is accused of contributing to an augmented possibility of individuals developing Anorexia. The research challenged me on the pre-existing views on the disorder in a number of ways. First, my pre-existing view of the disorder was that; the disorder could have been mostly caused by organisms such as bacteria, but not mostly by the psychosocial factors. For instance, I did not expect the media to have such a big influence mostly on women on causing the disorder. It was a surprise to learn that promotions and advertisements that appear simple persuade women to change their lifestyles at such large extents. It was unexpected to learn that little research has been conducted concerning gene-environment interaction. As such, little proof exists that eating disorders possess a genetic foundation.

The most implicated genes in passing on eating muddles are in biological structures that connect to mood, responses of reward-pleasure, appetite, and metabolism among others. It has been demonstrated that this influence of genes is not merely as a result of inheritance of whichever single gene. As such, it stems from an extra complex interaction between multiple genes and most likely together with the non-hereditary genetic factors. Importantly, I have learned that Anorexia Nervosa disorder is mostly caused by psychosocial factors that are environmental, psychological and sometimes biological.


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