Eating Disorder is a psychological medical condition in which the affected individual tends to have extremely irregular eating habits as a result of being over concerned about their body shape and size, and their overall weight. This condition is described as eating way too much or very little which ultimately impacts the overall health of the individual. The most common eating disorder is anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. They affect both males and females. Eating disorder puts lot of burden on not only the patient but also the family members and a study reveals that this condition has the highest mortality rate among all psychiatric disorders [1, 3].
Studies have also shown that while eating disorders can affect both males and females, it has been observed that young females tend to get it more than their male counterparts. However, the numbers in the male population is also on the rise as of late. Despite this rise in males, it is still the female population that dominates when it comes to eating disorders. This is due to a variety of causes of which the most common cause is the fear of gaining weight .
This is normally seen in females from western countries but this trend is now picking up in even developing countries like those in Asia. This is because of the cultural transformation that has taken place with the dawn of the 21st century. As of late, some research has hinted towards a neurological explanation as to why females are more at risk for eating disorders than males .
It suggested certain brain activity related to having a negative insight about the shape of the body which leads to finding new ways to lose weight causing eating disorders in females. This article explains in detail why females are more at risk for developing eating disorders than males .
Why are Females At Increased Risk For Eating Disorders?
The National Eating Disorders Association states that approximately 30 million people across the United States have some form of eating disorder or the other and among them 20 million are females. This data proves the prevalence of eating disorders in females more than males. The main reason behind this is believed to be the fact that females are more conscious of the shape of their body and their overall weight and to stay in shape they resort to unhealthful means by eating less resulting in eating disorders .
Various studies have proved that females tend to be unsatisfied with their body more than males. This dissatisfaction proves to be the crucial factor in females having eating disorders more than males .
When it comes to negative perceptions of physical appearance, social pressures are believed to play a key role. Since women tend to be more susceptible to such pressures, this may explain in part why eating disorders affect women more than men. Some studies have also mentioned that in some form of eating disorders patients believe that their body is larger in size than it actually is which again is a false notion they have leading to eating disorder .
Dr. Prestron of the Department of Psychology at York University in the UK states that it is far too common for females to have false concerns about their body with regard to its size and structure as a whole. However, what many people do not know is the brain activity that is associated with such feelings and how the brain is involved in an individual having negative feelings about the body causing eating disorders .
To prove this, Dr. Prestron conducted a study to detect the brain activity related to a female having increased risk for eating disorders. For this the advanced technology of virtual reality was used to assess the response of the brain to how the body appeared. For the study, 32 people were enrolled of which 50% were males and 50% were females. All the participants were completely healthy and had no history of any form of eating disorder. Their weight was measured when they enrolled into the study .
Every participant was given a virtual reality gear with a headset and when they looked into the screen they saw video of a slim or an obese body. The participant felt as if it was their body. To further enhance the illusion, the scientists poked the participants gently with sticks just to be in sync with what was being shown in the video. While the time the participants were hooked to the VER, their brain activity was being closely monitored by way of MRI .
The researchers observed that when the participants looked at the obese body there was significant brain activity in the area of the brain that was responsible for body perception which was the parietal lobe. There was also some activity seen in the area of the brain that was responsible for feelings of fear and anger. The surprising element of the study was that the brain activity was seen much more in females than in males .
This proved that females had greater dissatisfaction over how their body looked than males. This proved as to why females were at increased risk for developing eating disorders than males due to greater body dissatisfaction than males .
Dr. Prestron opined that the results of the study revealed a close link between how the body looked and the emotional responses of females making them vulnerable to various forms of eating disorders. The team plans to carry out further research on this topic along with studying how different emotions influence the perception that people have of their bodies .
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