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The Physiology and Psychology of Bulimia Essay

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The Physiology and Psychology of Bulimia


Bulimia is a disorder centered around an individual’s obsession with food and weight. This obsession involves eating large quantities of food, feeling guilty about the food consumption, and taking drastic measures to prevent caloric/fat absorption. Measures vary with each individual and include one or all of the following: forced vomiting, abuse of laxatives or diuretics, or excessive exercise. This disease affects one to three percent of adolescent and young women in the United States, and bulimic behaviors are displayed by ten to twenty percent of adolescent and young women in the United States (http://dcs.engr.widener.edu/galla/gal la.htm).

In the studies of bulimia nervosa there is a continuing debate concerning the underlying cause of the disease - whether it is physiological or psychological. Studies have found convincing results for both theories. Numerous links have been found between eating regulation and neurotransmitters. However, there is no clear evidence that neurotransmitter dysfunction is the underlying cause of bulimia nervosa. Of the neurotransmitters that have been tested, serotonin has had one of the largest roles in the regulation of food intake among patients with bulimia. Progress has also come through treating bulimia as a psychological disorder. Treatment under this theory often involves psychotherapy and the use of antidepressants. However, it is widely accepted that the path to the best results involves the combination of both physiological and psychological methods of treatment.

First, the physiological aspect will be explored. Assuming that eating regulation is controlled primarily by the brain, disturbances could exist in several places: (1) the br...


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Kaye, Walter H. and Harry E. Gwirtsman, eds. (1985). The Treatment of Normal Weight Bulimia, Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Press.

Pope, H.G., Jr. and Hudson, J.I. (1982). "Treating Bulimia with Antidepressants." Psychopharmacology, 78, 176-179.

Stunkard, Albert J. and Eliot Stellar, eds. (1984). Eating and Its Disorders: Research Publications, 62, 84; 259-260.

Walsh, Timothy B. (1988). Eating Behavior in Eating Disorders, Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Press.

Winik, Myron, ed. (1988). Control of Appetite: Current Concepts in Nutrition, 16, 27-34; 82-83.

Wurtman, J.J. and R.J. Wurtman, et al. (1981). "Carbohydrate Craving in Obese People: Suppression of Serotoninergic Transmission." International Journal of Eating Disorders, 1, 2-14.

Wurtman, J.J. and R.J. Wurtman, eds. (1979). Disorders of Eating: Nutrition and the Brain, 3, 121.



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