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Eating Disorders

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Eating Disorders
Introduction to Behavioral Science
BEH/225

Eating Disorders
The theory of drive reduction was first proposed by Psychologist Clark Hull. His theory was based on the idea that learning only occurred if there was a physiological urge or tension that impelled the individual to behave in a manner which would satisfy the related physiological need. Unfortunately, his theory does not apply to diseases such as anorexia or bulimia.
The primary drive of hunger is controlled by our brain, specifically an area known as the hypothalamus; which regulates many aspects of motivation and emotion especially hunger, thirst and sexual behavior (Coon and Mitterer 2013). With our primary hunger being controlled by our brain, it is more than likely that it is linked to a state of equilibrium which is also known as a “set point”. Our set point is the weight that we choose to maintain our bodies, and are making no effort to gain or lose weight. With that said our body tries to find a balance in regards to our food intake. Despite the amount of calories that an obese person has taken in one day, they may still feel hungry because their settling point might be too low and the reason for that is individuals train their bodies to eat a certain amount of food which than sets their “set point”.
Those individuals that suffer from eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia are typically unhappy with bodies, have low self-esteem and have such a distorted view of them. Eating disorders are caused by a combination of factors, and they are illnesses. Many individuals believe that anorexia and bulimia are character flaws or choices that people make; however, eating disorders can be genetic, biochemical, psychological, cultural and environmental (The Jed Foundation 2016). Physical beauty if far more pressured in Western society than in third world countries. Women living in third world countries have been studied and they appear much more content, comfortable and accepted in their bodies – slim or full (Gluck 2014).
Cultural difference play a major role in eating disorders. In 1999 a study was published about the effects of exposing a culture to Western television for the first time. After Fiji was exposed to Western shows, there was a spike of eating disorders in teenage girls (Engel, Staats Reis and Dombeck 2007). Prior to this viewing the people of Fiji believed that the ideal body was plump, round and soft. However, this does not mean that one has a disease that is driven by vanity, but rather in an effort to become more attractive the individual has created a psychological syndrome that causes one to view food in a negative light. This can be explained through the idea of motivation, specifically: intrinsic and extrinsic motivations.
Intrinsic and extrinsic motivations are behavioral forces that drive individuals towards gaining or accomplishing a particular end. Intrinsic motivation is an internalized motivation such as a feeling of satisfaction from a job well-done; while extrinsic motivation is based upon an external stimulus such as a reward or a punishment. Being able to understand the differences between these motivating forces is important. Intrinsic motivation is contextual in nature and may change over time and extrinsic motivations are external motivators such as bonuses or rewards which are intended to motivate. These forms of motivation are likely the underlying causes of eating disorders. For example, if a person seeks to achieve thinness and this goal is looked at as the reward or motivation, it can create a state of mind in which the person is never satisfied with their weight. This is especially true if the person feels that there self-worth is contingent on being thin. Linking self-worth with thinness would be an intrinsic motivation to lose weight. Within this framework of thought, it is possible to have negatively impacting intrinsic and extrinsic motivations which can cause problems such as eating disorders.

Bibliography
Coon, D, and J Mitterer. Introduction to Psychology, (13th ed). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2013.
Engel, Bridget, Natalie Staats Reis, and Mark Dombeck. Eating Disorder Maintaining Factors. 02 02, 2007. https://www.mentalhelp.net/articles/eating-disorder-maintaining-factors/ (accessed 02 20, 2016).
Gluck, Samantha. Cultural Aspects of Eating Disorders. 01 14, 2014. http://www.healthyplace.com/eating-disorders/articles/cultural-aspects-of-eating-disorders/ (accessed 02 20, 2016).
The Jed Foundation. ULifeline. 01 15, 2016. http://www.ulifeline.org/articles/400-eating-disorders-why-do-they-happen (accessed 02 20, 2016).

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