The psychodynamic approach was developed by Sigmund Freud in which he states that our behaviour is dependant on our unconscious minds and what drives us.
He states that we are unaware of what our actions actually mean and interpret them in a way that makes them seem less despicable, in attempt to hold on to rational explanations that make us seem more ‘normal’. This is a defence mechanism. Freud’s idea is that we are all driven by aggression and sexual desire. However, sexual desire is considered as unacceptable, therefore these impulses are repressed at a young age and expressed indirectly. (Barkway, 2013).
In relation to bulimia, Freud would say victims were eating in attempt to substitute their sexual feelings. (Griffiths, 2014). But these emotions have been repressed, so individuals aren’t consciously alert on the causes of their Bulimia. therefore, they do not have very much conscious control over their own actions. furthermore, freud splits our personality into three: Id, Ego and Superego.
The id is the most dominant of three and demands immediate gratification from its drives in this case, food. The Ego is the smallest part of our personality which uses rational and logical principles. This is the complete opposite to the Id.
The superego attempts to balance out these differing principles using its internalised moral values. (Barkway, 2013). Perhaps, the Id in bulimic patients is stronger, so the immediate gratification to binge eat takes place. Then when the patient realises what has happened (due to the ego and super ego), they compensate their actions by vomiting. This is because, if a part of the personality becomes over-dominant (like in an unhealthy body), the balance is disrupted. This leads to the Id becoming overly impulsive, the superego being critical and mean towards the individual and the ego being manipulative and conniving (Newcomb, 2014). In an unhealthy body, the feeling of hunger is still received by the id.
If it has enough energy in the psyche, this message is then transmitted to the rest of the system. However, if there is no energy, only the superego will get the message of hunger and will deny the need for food, whilst attempting to make the id unconscious, repressing it further, whilst putting the body down, shaming the individual. If the id has enough energy it will attempt to fight back, causing conflict. Momentarily, the Id takes over and the individual may binge eat all the food around them during this time, the ego and superego are powerless, in a temporary unconscious state.
As it is an unhealthy psyche, the factors such as fullness are not being taken into consideration, and the individual will continue eating (Kahn, 2017). Finally, an overbearing shame will hit them (from the superego) and they will have realised what they’ve done, leading to bulimic activities. This conveys that actually, individuals do not have a lot of conscious control over their own actions, and actually it is due to the unconscious. Furthermore, this can be backed up by the Psychosexual stages of development.
There psychosexual stages of development refer to the development progresses of the personality throughout childhood: oral, anal, phallic, latent and genital. Freud suggests that bulimic patients had fixation of libido, at the oral stage, which explains the vomiting (Barkway 2013). Finally, the Electra theory initiated by Freud and Jung provides the theory that during the phallic stage, females realise they lack a penis (as they have been castrated by their mothers), and attempt to perfect their bodies by preventing their feminine form from developing. They see the masculine form as desirable (Dare and crowther 1995).
To expand, this could be because the victim wishes to remain a child: protected and loved by their parents. Due to this, they don’t want their bodies to adapt or change, for them to become adults. Therefore, by not allowing the food to digest, they are hoping to keep their body, the way it is (Perkins & Luster, 1997). However, this can be criticised as most victims of bulimia are of an average body weight and in their late teens, therefore, their bodies have already adapted at this point (BEATS, 2015). This further supports the fact that individuals have little control over their own actions.