Bulimia in Western Culture

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


2 thoughts on “Bulimia in Western Culture

  1. I believe bulimia nervosa is a culture bound syndrome. Our western culture makes it possible to have a prevalence of bulimia nervosa located here. Our emphasis on image here the United States and other Western countries is brought about by all the thin movie stars, models, and magazine covers we see every day in this country. A thin image is not coveted in other cultures around the world and that is why bulimia nervosa can be classified as a culture bound syndrome.
    I don’t see any real health advantages to having bulimia nervosa besides being able to not the same health risks with our other culture bound syndrome, obesity. Unfortunately bulimia nervosa comes with its own set of health risks. There are many disadvantages to have bulimia nervosa. Mostly it is health concern. People even die from this illness. Another disadvantage is it can lead to other body image related illnesses like anorexia.
    Since most other ethnomedical systems do not have eating disorders they may feel some sort of evil or spirit is making the sufferer do this to themselves. In the folk sector they may call on sacred healer and take a holistic approach to healing the illness. Some other cultures have dealt with eating disorders in the sense of anorexia and may treat it the same way since they are familiar with that.

  2. I agree with Bulimia nervosa being a culture bound syndrome is prevalent in the United States. Our culture is obsessed with being thin that many people take extreme measures to fulfill this .The media especially makes bulimia CBS because on TV, magazines, and the internet most people are thin. In USA thin is the ideal image especially for women. Bulimia nervosa has so many disadvantages and no really advantages that are good for you. One disadvantage is not being health since the person throws up the food they eat. Another is throwing up their food the acid from their stomach mess up their esophagus and rotten the teeth. The worst disadvantage it to me is death. Some people spend most of their life in and out of the hospital for this illness.
    In a different culture bulimia might be considered something like an evil spirit or the person is poor. In other culture someone who is obesity is consider rich and healthy so person with bulimia might be considered the opposite. The way bulimia might be treated in another culture is probably by a shaman if it was for an evil spirit.
    I believe bulimia nervosa will eventually not be a culture bound syndrome anymore with globalization. It will be known worldwide instead of something just in the USA.

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