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increase in the incidence of anorexia nervosa is a direct result of the social pressures on young girls to be thin'

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Abnormality Assignment (a) Give two criticisms of the 'deviation from social norms' definition of psychological abnormality. Deviation from social norms does not always indicate psychological abnormality. We tend to make judgements about whether behaviours that deviate from the norm are merely eccentric of whether they are abnormal in a pathological sense. Running naked across a rugby pitch, or taking part in a marathon dressed as a giant rabbit may be regarded as strange or idiosyncratic, but we would not necessarily assume that the person is mentally disturbed. However, if someone is walking down the street talking out loud to an invisible person, or if someone insists Martians have taken over their brain, then we would be more likely to suspect a mental disorder. Thus, only particular kinds of 'abnormal' behaviour tend to be regarded as pathological. Another criticism of the 'deviation from social norms' definition of psychological abnormality is that it implies that the task of a psychotherapist would be to ensure that people conform to social norms, no matter what they are, rather than using treatment as a means of improving the well being of the individual and the group to which he or she belongs. Szaszs argues that societies use the concept of mental illness to control and change people who unusual patterns of functioning threaten the social order. ...read more.


(c) 'The rapid increase in the incidence of anorexia nervosa is a direct result of the social pressures on young girls to be thin' In the light of the above quotation, critically evaluate explanations for the causes of anorexia nervosa. Biological explanations of eating disorders fall into two categories, genetic inheritance, and biochemical dysfunction of neurotransmitters in the brain. Genetic science has been unable to identify genes for specific behaviours, such as those associated with eating disorders. Research is based, therefore, on examining whether a particular disorder runs in families. The American Psychiatric Association reports that there is an increased risk of eating disorders among first-degree biological relatives of those diagnosed, with a number of studies showing a much higher prevalence rate than in the general population. However, since relatives usually share the same environment, this does not necessarily support a genetic cause, as the behaviour may have been learned from other family members. Twin studies provide more reliable evidence. The nature of this research is to compare monozygotic twins with dizgotic twins. MZ twins have identical genes, whereas DZ twins are no more alike genetically than any other siblings. Therefore, environmental factors could be largely eliminated if a significantly higher concordance rate were found among MZ twins compared with DZ twins. ...read more.


Thus agreeing with classical conditioning that thin is associated with positive reinforcement and being of normal weight or more is associated with negative feelings of unattractiveness and lack of self control. The pressures of models and famous women who are classed as 'slim' have important influence on young girls. This can be seen in the differential rates of eating disorders amongst certain cultures and professions. Anorexia nervosa is very prevalent among models and dancers, especially ballet dancers. Not only are there pressures from the culture but from certain families. Several studies indicate that anorexia is common in the daughters of parents who, from a time when the children are young, put great emphasise on thinness, physical appearance and dieting. The learning theory view also holds that it is not just social pressures on young girls that cause anorexia nervosa. The theory holds that anorexia is a phobia, which had arisen as all phobias do - as a result of learning. The specific phobia in this case is the fear of being fat and the fear of being out of control of your life. Anorexics are typically desperately fearful of eating in case they loose control and eat more than they should. To conclude, we can see how social pressures can be the cause of girls developing anorexia nervosa, but we can also see other factors that contribute, so it cannot be defined as the sole cause. ...read more.

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