Western culture, with the help of advancing media, has been guided to form a new beauty ideal. Beauty has become barely living skeletons and malnourished models that are usually struggling with eating disorders. However, this new beauty cannot be blamed on one thing, but there are many factors that have gone into creating this image. People now associate thinness with being healthy (especially with our views on obesity) and the media has taken this opportunity to make money off of our failure to achieve this new ideal beauty. With the consumer economy working to suck our pockets clean of money by suggesting we must be under a healthy weight to look good, it is not question why our nation has seen such a dramatic rise in eating disorders. To introduce such an ideal to an individualistic society can be very dangerous.
This article discusses the extent to which eating disorders really are culture-bound syndromes. It concludes that Bulimia nervosa is, in fact, a culture bound illness, while anorexia is not. It mentions the biological dimensions of eating disorders; the role genes play in their etiology and their heritability. It concludes that heritability for bulimia shows greater variability cross culturally than anorexia does. This suggests that the genetic differences in these disorders may be associated with their cross-cultural appearance. Although anorexia may occur occasionally in other cultures, its prevalence rates are much higher in western culture, due to our obsession with weight.
Eating disorders are psychological disorders, and therefore the individual is in much psychological distress. Influenced by their genes and the beliefs of their culture, individuals in the western culture place a lot of stress and expectations on themselves. Bulimia and anorexia are treated with the help of psychologists and nutritionists in treatment centers and hospitals around the country. Eating disorders are treated as individual psychological problems that can be treated but only with the effort of the individual.
Are eating disorders culture-bound syndromes? Implications for conceptualizing their etiology.Keel, Pamela K.; Klump, Kelly L. Psychological Bulletin, Vol 129(5), Sep 2003, 747-769. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.129.5.747