Eating Disorders

The Problem of Eating Disorders

Nowadays the problem of eating disorders has become well-known and even popular, and the terms “anorexia” and “bulimia” have stopped being only medical notions. The cultural, genetic, personal factors are closely connected in their influence on the background of the eating disorders emergence. There are three main forms of eating disorders: anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and not specified eating disorder.

The article “Genetics in eating disorders: extending the boundaries of research” written by Pinheiro A.P. and co-authors, is dedicated to the problem of eating disorders, its etiology (prerequisites and reasons) and the methods of its investigation provided in this problematic area. It is stressed that recently new researches has led to the new conception that eating disorders are connected with the genetic approach, but not only environmental or cultural. Much attention is devoted to the overview of the approaches, which stand on the edge of different studies, and their effectiveness in the problem of defining the reasons of eating disorders. According to the article, family studies are the first stage in the understanding of the role of genes in the origin of eating disorders and are aimed at elucidating certain disorder if it occurs in the family as such. Twin studies make a step further being able to distinguish the genetic and environmental reasons of diseases. The higher level in genetic studies is association and linkage studies, which have some limitations referred to their initial premises that influence the results.

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The main attention is directed at the consideration Brazil as the sample of the country with admixed population that results in difficulties in genetic approach of eating disorders investigation. Due to the centuries of admixing with Europeans, Africans and Asians it is too complicated to ascertain the genetic codes and the heredity that brought about frictions in the functioning of the human organism. Therefore, it has to be understood firstly what is the gist of eating disorders, how the approaches on their investigation were changed, and what is the essence of genetic conception.

The food is perceived to be the earliest display of the love and care. The nourishment is a necessary natural condition of our healthy vital activity. However, there are exceptions that are reflected in such eating disorders as anorexia nervosa. This disorder is characterized by weight loss, fear of obesity, distorted perception of your appearance and deep metabolic and hormonal malfunction. Bulimia nervosa is characterized by uncontrolled attacks of appetite strengthening that further leads to the guilt and a wish to get rid of the food that was eaten. The third is not specified eating disorder. The first two types are the main and the most spread.

In my opinion, the article that was noticed earlier is the evidence of the changes, which have been happening during the last ten years, in our views concerning the problem of the nature of eating disorders. Moreover, it can be taken into consideration that the problem of eating disorders is very broad, deep and not absolutely clear.

Anorexia Nervosa

Anorexia nervosa was traditionally considered a disorder that can be explained by social and cultural peculiarities, but not as biological or connected with the development disorder. Since the appearance of the conception of anorexia nervosa, for one century, this disorder was conceived to be as nonspecific, dependent on the outer environment female neurosis. Only in the 70s of the XXth century arose a separate notion of anorexia nervosa as a neurotic syndrome. In the 90s, the casual relationship between a disease and its reasons was explained by gender dynamics, modern socio-cultural explanations include global cultural dynamic processes, such as cultures in the process of changing and admixing of gender roles. Nevertheless in 90s the understanding of eating disorders changed after the researches that discovered a genetic component in the range of reasons of these disorders. To my mind, there is no doubt that socio-cultural explanations are very significant and essential, but it is better to consider anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa to be heterogeneous disorders with a very complicated multiple-factor etiology, which consists in interaction of heredity and environment, in particular, social factors. At the same time, the problem is that this etiology is little-known and little-studied as yet, especially its biological component. Such state of things makes difficulties in the way of developing the new methods of medical treatment. It must be acknowledged that in order to simplify investigations in this sphere it is necessary to change the current nosology that will allow understanding and seeing the structure of eating disorders more clear.


To sum up, nowadays more and more scientists come to conclusion that eating disorders are complex disorders that occur under the influence of genetic and social factors. Genes and factors of the outer world influence the cognitive style and personality. There is a correlation between the biological (the function of serotonin), environmental (negative experience in childhood) factors, peculiarities of the personality and affects. These factors are liable to the genes and are mediated by them. Still there are many problems left, one of which–definition of disorders that would reflect their fundamental features. This approach is gaining momentum by the recognition of the fact that a kind of anorexia nervosa can be a separate disease, which has its own biological background. Nevertheless much in common remains between anorexia and bulimia. Despite the progress in genetic approach, the results of investigation of the interaction “gene – environmental factors” are very modest. There are a lot of questions pertinent to the etiology of eating disorders, which don’t have an answer. Is it possible to work out a group of justified diagnoses that will reflect the etiology in their background? Why mainly women possess these diseases? How is it possible to balance the influence of genes and the pressure from the side of the society? How is it possible to improve the methods of the medical treatment? The answers on these questions are to appear in the next decade.

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