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Revista médica de Chile

Print version ISSN 0034-9887


BEHAR A, Rosa. Evolutionary perspective of eating disorders. Rev. méd. Chile [online]. 2012, vol.140, n.4, pp.517-523. ISSN 0034-9887.

Background: Evolutionary theory has contributed with physiological, psychological and behavioral explanations to the comprehension and treatment of eating disorders (ED). The aim of this review is to analyze the relationship between ED and the attachment theory and natural selection based hypotheses (famine flight, reproductive suppression and intrasexual competition). Insecure attachment is characteristic of ED and significantly interferes in the individuation developmental process. Maternal attachment is usually ambivalent; mainly avoidant in anorexics and anxious in bulimics. Anorexic syndrome evokes ancestral adaptive mechanisms to face food scarcity, status achievement and threat of group exclusion. Suppression of reproductive capacity in anorexics, favored by family dynamics, represents a self-sacrifice to obtain the benefit of its members through genetic altruism. Feminine intrasexual competence is related to nubile features in order to attract and retain high quality and long-term partners. Therefore, from an evolutionary perspective, ED symptomatology may be described as a self-destructive adaptive state of lack of control, in response to a particular genetic phenotype plasticity, environmental factors and cognitive processes.

Keywords : Anorexia; Biological evolution; Eating disorders; Genetic fitness.

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