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Outline and evaluate psychological explanations of anorexia

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Outline and evaluate psychological explanations of anorexia There are 3 main psychological explanations of anorexia; behavioural, cognitive and the psychodynamic approach. The behavioural approach is based upon the principles of classical and operant conditioning. First the individual learns an association between slimness and admiration (classical conditioning), and therefore begins to diet. He/she starts to receive more compliments on his/her slimness (operant conditioning), the extreme weight loss also gains attention. It is believed that anorexia is influenced by the media as it creates a social norm that 'thin is good'. The thin models receive attention and admiration, and therefore their behaviour is imitated. The behavioural approach explains the cultural differences in the rates of anorexia, there are much higher rates of anorexia in western cultures as individuals are exposed to many thin role models and there is a different attitude to eating. It also explains the gender differences (there are higher rates of anorexia in females), as the social norm for genders differ. ...read more.


The % of girls with a high score on an eating disorder questionnaire also rose from 13% to 29%. This study shows a relationship between the media and eating disorders. It suggests that the Fijians are striving to conform to Western cultural standards due to classical and operant conditioning. There are criticisms of this study. Although the findings show an increased rate of abnormal attitudes towards food, it does not indicate the amount of eating disorders that formed as this attitude does not always lead to anorexia. Also, this study does not show that the changed attitudes are due to western culture. The change of attitudes could be due to another factor such as the stress of the introduction of technology in a traditional culture. Also this study uses a bias sample, as all the participants are female Fijians. These individuals do not represent a majority of people, and therefore the findings can not be generalised to other populations. ...read more.


In adolescence, the conflict between maternal dependence and the wish for independence results in the need for self control and therefore anorexia. A limitation of this approach is it is difficult to falsify as it is based on interpretations of cases and factors of anorexia. Although it is also a positive approach as it explains the patterns found in the families of anorexic individuals (such as the majority of anorexic individual's parents are strict and perfectionist). Also it can result in effective treatment, as the anorexic individual is not given all the responsibility but the family is targeted too. These psychological models all propose valid and logical causes of anorexia, although individually they cannot explain all factors of the eating disorder, therefore it is likely that it is caused by a combination of the approaches. Also the biological approach may be a factor. The biological approach states that anorexia is due to a biochemical imbalance or the disorder is genetic, strong evidence for this suggests that anorexia is not due to psychological factors but medical. Christine :) ...read more.

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Here's what a teacher thought of this essay

3 star(s)

The writer discussed the behavioural and psychodynamic approach to anorexia but writes very little about the cognitive approach. The essay in general is very basic with references lacking dates. However, if the comments are taken on board this essay could be improved. The writer needs to explain what anorexia is and who it mainly affects first in the introduction. The writer needs to expand on the cognitive explanation of anorexia and references need to be added.

Finally, the writer also needs to weigh up all the evidence in order to come to an objective conclusion.

Star rating 3*.

Marked by teacher Linda Penn 14/10/2013

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