Academic journal article The Psychological Record

Subjective Well-Being in a Sample of Women with Eating Disorders

Academic journal article The Psychological Record

Subjective Well-Being in a Sample of Women with Eating Disorders

Article excerpt

Introduction

Eating disorders (ED) can be defined as a disturbance of eating behavior that results in the altered consumption of foods and that affects physical health and psychosocial functioning (Fairburn and Walsh 1995). ED are frequently found among young women in Western industrialized countries (Malcino et al. 2004), and are much less common in men (Andersen, 1995). Spain, the country where this study has been cathed out, is among the nations affected by ED (Ruiz-Lazaro, 2003).

In the last few years, ED have been increasing (Mitchison et al. 2012) and there is evidence to suggest that it is women who are at the highest risk of developing ED (Le Grange et al. 2012). Anorexia nervosa (AN), bulimia nervosa (BN) and eating disorder not otherwise specified (EDNOS) are the most frequent disorders (Hudson et al. 2007). AN is an ED characterized by excessive food restriction, weight problems (usually, a weight less than 85 % of what is considered normal for that person's age), amenonthea, an irrational fear of gaining weight, and a distorted body self-perception (APA 2000). BN is an ED characterized by binge eating and followed by an attempt to rid oneself of the food consumed (what is called purging), usually by vomiting, taking a laxative or diuretic and/or with excessive exercise (Fairburn and Walsh 1995). Finally, EDNOS is a category described in DSM-IV for disorders of eating that do not meet the criteria for any specific AN or BN (APA 2000; Day et al. 2011). All ED have an elevated mortality risk (Smink et al. 2012).

Additionally, research has showed that ED patients usually report less quality of life, physical and psychological indicators that reflect individual welfare (Felce and Perry 1995), than non-clinical populations (Engel et al. 2009). It is important to remark that a primary obstacle in treating ED is the lack of motivation to change by patients and their ambivalence regarding treatment (Geller et al. 2001), and a recent study shows that quality of life of the patients is related to willingness to change and to be part of the therapy (Munoz et al. 2012). Additionally, some studies have showed that the improvement in quality of life of ED patients was also related to the reduction of ED symptoms, depression severity or anxiety level (Leung et al. 2013). Therefore, we believe that it is important to bear in mind the quality of life of patients with ED, because it may be connected with the success of the therapy. For this reason, the current study analyzes the quality of life of ED patients from a Positive Psychology perspective.

Positive Psychology in ED

It is very frequent that patients with ED also have additional comorbid diagnoses. Depression (Hughes 2012) and anxiety (Swinboume et al. 2012), usually accompany a diagnosis of an ED (Braun et al. 1994). Patients with ED, mostly women, have a higher prevalence of anxiety and they report significantly more major depressive symptoms compared with people without ED (Touchette et al. 2011).

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) (1948) definition, health is considered as a state of complete physical and psychological welfare and not just the simple absence of disease. In other words, quality of life of individuals depends on physical health, but also on the well-being that they have. For this reason, it is important to also study the positive psychological human functioning, like subjective well-being (SWB), and not just focus on the negative aspects. Unfortunately, Positive Psychology (Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi 2000; Seligman 2002) is not an approach that is very common in the ED field (Steck et al. 2004). Therefore, in this study we will focus on the positive aspects related to ED, rather than depression and anxiety.

Subjective Well-Being and ED

As we have pointed out before, although several investigations have studied the relationship between depression, anxiety and ED, not many researchers have focused on the positive aspects of quality of life in patients with ED (see for example: Doll et al. …

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