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Psychology Theories on American Girls

Psychology Theories on American Girls

In America, girls are given the message at a very young age that in order to be happy and successful, they must be thin. Given the value, which our society places on being thin, it is not surprising that eating disorders are on the increase. In America thousands of teenage girls are dealing with emotional situations daily and eating behavior can be affected by the way they are feeling. Eating disorders affect over five million men and women in the United States, and sadly enough thousands of them will die from the physical problems caused by conditions that are linked with eating disorders. Most people think of the extremes of anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating; the truth is that almost every American, at some point in his or her lifetime, will suffer from issues of weight loss, body shape, or self-image, if not all three. Due to these factors, eating disorders are a major concern for psychologists today (Harmon, 1999). This trend, however, is found mainly in America and countries with western ideals.

Eating Disorders are primarily behavior disorders. Douglas Eagles (1987) states, “the behavioral disturbance leads to disorders of nutrition” (p. 71). The definition of Eating Disorders as defined by Harmon (1999), “a psychological disorder in which a person is unable or unwilling to maintain normal eating habits, and instead engages in self starvation, binging, purging, or some combination of these behaviors (83). Eating disorders are not just about losing weight and the search for the ideal body, they are mainly about expressing difficult feelings (Abraham & Llewellyn-Jones, 1999). Eating Disorders affect over five million Americans and thousands will die from these conditions (American Anorexia Bulimia Association [AABA], 2001).

The prevalence of eating disorders has increased in the last forty years. It is believed that extreme eating disorders occur in approximately 4 percent of American females (Costin, 1999). However, eating disorders can also be found in males. “Both anorexia and bulimia appear to be much more common in women than in men, from 90 to 95 percent of all patients are females” (Long, 1999). Eating disorders typically begins in adolescence between the ages of twelve and twenty-five, however, it may begin as early as seven and can continue until as late as fifty-nine.

There are three main classifications of eating disorders, anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge eating. The general definition of anorexia...

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