Bulimia nervosa is a type of eating disorder which is most prevalent among females and there is also considerable overlap between this mental health condition and other disorders such as binge eating disorder, depression and anorexia nervosa.
As with the majority of mental health problems, there are a variety of different theories and factors believed to play a part in the development of the disorder including:
- Developmental theories
- Cognitive theory
- Genetic links
Developmental Theories and Bulimia
The main argument associated with developmental theorists is the belief that pressure to look a certain way and fit in through being thin is greatest during the period of adolescence. Evidence also indicates that girls are more affected by inner turmoil at this time, resulting in insecurity, low self-esteem, anxiety and feeling self-conscious.
In addition, developmental theories suggest that boys usually find forming an identity somewhat easier than girls. Society as a whole is also recognised as continually changing in terms of expectations of the female role in terms of food, sexuality and gender roles.
Cognitive Theory and Bulimia
Cognitive theory is all about identifying and challenging negative behaviours, feelings and thoughts and beliefs about oneself as this theory recognises that thoughts, feelings and behaviour all impact one another. In terms of applying cognitive theory to bulimia, the emphasis is on learning to interrupt destructive behaviour/thought patterns which serve to keep the vicious cycle going round.
In time, the idea is that the interruption of the destructive cycle of bulimia will get earlier and eventually prevent the downward spiral that results in behaviour such as misusing laxatives, diet pills, diuretics and emetics.
Genetic Links and Bulimia
Many research studies undertaken on eating disorders including bulimia pinpoint that there is a genetic element associated with these mental health conditions. As with many health problems, the closer the relative, the more likely the individual is to also suffer from the same illness.
It is important to highlight that some individuals will develop bulimia with no apparent genetic risk and so in addition to genetic links there must be other factors which are responsible for triggering the condition. Another suggestion is that this link may also have a lot to do with the similarity of wider circumstances associated with close relatives.
In addition to the underlying theories believed to be related to the development of bulimia, other theories include biological theories, family systems and socio-cultural models. While each may well play a part in different sufferers it is unlikely that any one single theory can be totally responsible for the condition.