Eating Disorders – Anorexia Nervosa

Right now, 1 percent of all American women — our sisters, mothers and daughters — are starving themselves; some literally starving and exercising themselves to death. Eating disorders are becoming an epidemic, especially among our most promising young women. These women and girls, whom we admire and adore, feel a deep sense of inadequacy and ineffectiveness. Anorexia nervosa is a confusing, complex disease that many people know too little about.

There is no blame in anorexia nervosa. Anorexia is not an indication that parents have gone wrong in raising their children. Cultural, genetic and personality factors interact with life events to initiate and maintain eating disorders.

Anorexia is not fun. Many people who strive to lose weight state, “I wish I were anorexic.” They fail to recognize the wretchedness of the disease. Anorexia is not about feeling thin, proud and beautiful; if you take the time to listen to an anorexic you will hear that they feel fat, unattractive and inadequate. They are scared and trapped.

Anorexia is not something sufferers can just “snap out of.” Anorexics’ minds are not their own; they are possessed by thoughts of weight, body image, food and calories. Many sufferers are not even free of the disease in their sleep, troubled by dreams of food, eating and exercise. Anorexia is an awful, lonely experience that often takes years to conquer.

Anorexia is hard on everyone involved. Living with someone with anorexia nervosa can be exasperating and confusing. To those who do not understand the complexity of the disorder, the sufferer’s behavior seems selfish and manipulative. It is often hard to remember that eating disorders are a manifestation of profound unhappiness and distress.

Anorexia can be deadly. It has one of the highest fatality rates of any mental illness. If you or someone you know shows the signs or symptoms of an eating disorder, take action, get educated and seek help.

Specific Symptoms of Anorexia Nervosa:

A person who suffers from this disorder is typically characterized by their refusal to maintain a body weight which is consistent with their build, age and height. Specifically, a person’s body weight needs to be 85% or less than that which is considered typical for someone of similar build, age and height.

The individual usually experiences an intense and overwhelming fear of gaining weight or becoming fat. This fear is regardless of the person’s actual weight, and will often continue even when the person is near death from starvation. It is related to a person’s poor self-image, which is also a symptom of this disorder. The individual suffering from this disorder believes that their body weight, shape and size is directly related to how good they feel about themselves and their worth as a human being. Persons with this disorder often deny the seriousness of their condition and can not objectively evaluate their own weight.

At least three consecutive menstrual cycles must be missed, if the woman was menstruating previously before the onset of the disorder. Specifically, a woman is considered to have amenorrhea if her periods occur only following hormone, e.g., estrogen, administration.

There are two types of anorexia nervosa:

  • Restricting type — The person restricts their food intake on their own and does not engage in binge-eating or purging behavior.
  • Binge eating/purging type — The person self-induces vomiting or misuses laxatives, diuretics, or enemas.

The Body Mass Calculator is one simple way to calculate your healthy weight.

Resources:
PsychCentral

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The Illusion of Asymmetric Insight Bias

The illusion of asymmetric insight is a cognitive bias whereby people perceive their knowledge of others to surpass other people’s knowledge of themselves. This bias seems to be due to the conviction that observed behaviors are more revealing of others than self, while private thoughts and feelings are more revealing of the self.

We commonly believe that we understand others better than they understand us. The rationale for this stems from our external, objective viewpoint and the assumption that the other person has a significant blind self, whilst our own blind self is small.

There is also asymmetry in the reverse situation — we believe we understand ourselves better than others understand us and may feel insulted if they try to show they understand us more than we do.

The same effect happens for groups, where the in-group believes they understand out-groups better than out-groups understand them.

Overall, this is a position where we generally assume we know more than others, perhaps because we know more about what we know.

Example:

In an argument with another person you tell them what they are like in great detail because clearly they have very little self-knowledge. They argue back telling you things about yourself that are clearly wrong or that you knew anyway. How can people be so stupid?

Resources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Illusion_of_asymmetric_insight

http://changingminds.org/explanations/theories/asymmetric_insight.htm

The key features of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

The key feature of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is excessive worry.

Everyone worries to some degree at some point about something in their lives. However, the worry experienced by individuals with GAD is clearly out of proportion to the actual likelihood or impact of the feared event. The worry is longstanding.

Themes of worry may include health, finances, job responsibilities, safety of one’s children or even being late for appointments. The worry is difficult to control and interferes with the task at hand. For example, students may find it difficult to get their schoolwork done and parents often describe difficulty letting their child get on the school bus. These feelings of worry and dread are accompanied by physical symptoms such as pain from muscle tension, headache, frequent urination, difficulty swallowing, “lump in the throat” or exaggerated startle response.

For some people this chronic anxiety and worry have become the standard approach taken to all situations and health experts recognize this condition as Generalized Anxiety Disorder. While the exact cause for GAD is uncertain, experts feel that it’s a combination of biological factors and life events. It’s not uncommon for some people with GAD to also have other medical disorders such as depression and/or panic disorder . These may be influenced by the activity certain chemicals systems in the brain.

Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder

The first sign is chronic, irrational worry that can’t be turned off. This can focus on a variety of topics from health to money to job responsibilities. The worry, while ever present, can peak to the point that it prevents functioning.

Worries can be accompanied by physical symptoms that include trembling, twitching, muscle tension, headaches, sweating or hot flashes. The person might feel lightheaded, out of breath, nauseated or have to go to the bathroom a lot. Some people might feel they have lumps in their throats. Others startle more easily.

GAD comes on gradually and often hits people in childhood or adolescence but can begin in adulthood. According to the Diagnostics Statistics Manual IV, this excessive anxiety occurs more days than not and for at least six months. The person finds it difficult to control the worry.

In addition, there are certain physical conditions associated with GAD. At least three of the following symptoms need to be present for six months:

  • feeling keyed up, restless or on edge
  • being easily fatigued
  • having difficulty concentrating, or having one mind go blank
  • experiencing irritability
  • experiencing muscle tension
  • having sleep disturbances (difficulty falling or staying asleep; or having restless, unsatisfying sleep)

In addition, the focus of the anxiety and worry is not directed to worrying about a particular occurrence, such as having a panic attack, as in panic disorder or being embarrassed in public as in social phobia or being contaminated as in obsessive-compulsive disorder.

The anxiety, worry and physical symptoms cause significant distress or impairment in social, occupational or other important areas of functioning. It also important to rule out that the anxiety is not due to drugs, prescription medication, alcohol or another medical condition, such as hyperthyroidism.

Learn more at: PsychCentral

10 Ways to Reduce Stress

Stress is a term that is commonly used today but has become increasingly difficult to define. It shares, to some extent, common meanings in both the biological and psychological sciences. Stress typically describes a negative concept that can have an impact on one’s mental and physical well-being, but it is unclear what exactly defines stress and whether or not stress is a cause, an effect, or the process connecting the two. With organisms as complex as humans, stress can take on entirely concrete or abstract meanings with highly subjective qualities, satisfying definitions of both cause and effect in ways that can be both tangible and intangible.

Watch the video below to learn some helpful tips on reducing stress!

Status quo bias

The status quo bias is a cognitive bias which leads people to prefer that things remain the same, or that things change as little as possible, if they absolutely must be altered. This cognitive bias plays a role in a number of fields, including economics, political science, sociology, and psychology, and numerous studies have been conducted on the status quo bias to look at ways in which this bias influences human behaviour. By being aware of the role that the status quo bias plays in their own lives, people can take steps to reduce the influence of this bias on their decision making.

While the status quo bias can provide a certain amount of self-protection by encouraging people to make safer choices, it can also become crippling, by preventing someone from making more adventurous choices. Like other cognitive biases, this bias can be so subtle that people aren’t aware of it, making it hard to break out of set patterns.

Resources:

http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-the-status-quo-bias.htm

The just-world fallacy

The just-world hypothesis (or just-world fallacy) is a cognitive bias referring to the common assumption that the outcomes of situations are caused or guided by some universal force of justice, order, stability, or desert. In other words, the just-world hypothesis is people’s tendency to attribute consequences to, or expect consequences as the result of, a cosmic power responsible for the righting of past wrongs, injustices, or imbalances. The premise of the fallacy popularly appears in English in the form of various figures of speech, which often imply a negative reprisal of justice, such as: “You got what was coming to you,” “What goes around comes around,” and “You reap what you sow.”

This phenomenon has been widely studied by social psychologists since Melvin J. Lerner conducted seminal work on the belief in a just world in the early 1960s. Since that time, research has continued, examining the predictive capacity of the hypothesis in various situations and across cultures, and clarifying and expanding the theoretical understandings of just world beliefs.

 

Resources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Just-world_phenomenon