Etiology of eating disorders within a learned helplessness model of depression

Lindemann, Bernadette B. (2000) Etiology of eating disorders within a learned helplessness model of depression. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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    Available under License - The author retains copyright ownership and moral rights in this thesis. Neither the thesis nor substantial extracts from it may be printed or otherwise reproduced without the author's permission.
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Abstract

This thesis is an attempt to parallel characteristics of anorexia (AN) and bulimia nervosa (BN: with those of depressive disorder in order to re-frame the etiology and progression of these eating disorders within a learned helplessness model of depression. In their 1993 publication, Seligman and his colleagues (Peterson, Maier, & Seligman) address the significance of the learned helpless theory in a contemporary society: -- Learned helplessness is an important theory for the present because those of us in the Western world seem to be living in an era in which personal control is an overarching issue. We are also wary of the future. Because this incredible emphasis on personal control has its costs. We argue that the epidemic of depression among young adults represents a disorder of personal control. Generally speaking, the incredible selfishness of the American people can be phrased in terms of personal control (p. 307). -- It is proposed that the anorexic and the bulimic patients' symptomatology is rooted in a loss of a sense of control and of mastery, which can be traced to antecedent events. Consequently, these events or situations result in the eating-disordered patients' feeling helpless, powerless, and not in control of circumstances affecting their lives. These feelings ultimately lead to a persistent negative affective state frequently reported in eating-disordered patients. It is suggested that the depressive state is attributable to learned helplessness depression as initially defined by Seligman (1975). The eating-disordered patient thwarts depressive feelings by focussing on her body, more specifically her weight. The patient seeks control over the only perceivably controllable aspect of her life, her weight. The thesis is presented in two parts: Part 1 is a literature review. It provides background information which examines existing research in order to elicit core themes and commonalities that parallel learned helplessness depression with AN and BN. Included is the proposed learned helplessness model of AN and BN. Part 2 is a proposal for empirical research to explore the relationship among three constructs: depression, hopelessness, and locus of control, in a clinically diagnosed eating-disordered population compared to a non-clinical, gender and age-matched student population.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/809
Item ID: 809
Additional Information: Bibliography: leaves 137-188
Department(s): Education, Faculty of
Date: 2000
Date Type: Submission
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Eating disorders--Etiology; Helplessness (Psychology); Depression, Mental

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