Bulimia in United States

Bulimia Nervosa is an eating disorder in which the individual binges on food until they feel a loss of control and then they purge themselves by either vomiting or abusing the use of laxatives to prevent any weight gain. An article on Medscape describes  two main ways that individuals struggling with bulimia prevent weight gain: purging methods and non purging methods. When people think of bulimia I think they typically think of binging and then vomiting, but non purging methods such as excessive exercise and fasting can be just as dangerous. For examples, four studies have showed that in people that suffer from eating disorders, excessive exercise is linked to an increased risk of suicide. People with bulimia usually show obvious signs with their dental status (the acid from vomit erodes their enamel), sudden hair loss, acne, or dry skin. The above description of bulimia describes the biological dimensions of the disease. The absence of weight gain and eventual weight loss on top of the side effects (tooth erosion, dry skin, etc.) are the biological, or physical, perimeters of the disease. The cultural dimensions are based on the idea of perfect body images in the United States. The culture in this country pushes the idea of a perfect body image into the minds of the affect individuals. The individual dimension runs parallel with the cultural dimension. The individuals keep in their mind the image of “beauty” and “perfection” that they are willing to purge and reach dangerous measures in order to attain. While there are a lot of physical aspects to bulimia, the psychological aspects are just as prominent.

This illness is often treated in treatment centers. The patients receive professional care with medication while also receiving care on an emotional and personal level in the form of therapy. The holistic and allopathic treatment options work together to help and cure the individual on both physical and psychological levels.

Works Cited:

Yager, Joel. “Bulimia Nervosa.” Medscape. Accessed July 22, 2013. http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/286485-overview#a0101.


This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Josh Hartwig says:

    To me the term “culture” represents a difference in environment of a group of individuals over a period of time. This could range from how we can call ourselves “Spartans” compared to our rivals the “Wolverines” which shows a difference in culture between to schools that reside only an hour away from each other. Culture could also be used to describe differences in people’s religion, race, or social status. After some thought I do agree with the point that Bulimia is a culture bound syndrome in the United States because as a culture we are very critical our own and others body image. This is evident even viewing something as innocent as a children’s toy, just look at Barbie and Ken. We as a culture are bombarded with images of what we should try to attain even though it might not be realist for everyone. Just watch TV or listen to the radio and they will talk about the swimsuit season and how you have to get ready for it, suggesting that who you are normally is not good enough to walk around in a swimsuit. The advantage of bulimia being a CBS is that it is recognized and regularly treated by a counselor along with the biomedical field to address the physical effects of the mental condition. In another culture the behavior of bulimia could be seen as spiritual in the case of fasting, or even as possibly being possessed from the constant vomiting if that is the individual’s way of purging.

  2. phill612 says:

    In my opinion culture is a broad subjective classification in which individuals self-identify with numerous subcategories. Individuals make decisions or learn to identify with s group that share similar beliefs, geographic location, behavioral patterns, economic status, ethnicity and traditional practices. Upon reflecting on the eating disorder of bulimia nervosa I believe that it can be considered a culture-bound syndrome. I myself identify with a Western culture and in such culture it is not viewed as healthy to consume food and purge or exercise so excessively that an individual cannot gain weight. It has been my experience that this syndrome mostly affects women and young girls because of the societal pressures to attain the perfect appearance. This is demonstrated in the United States through advertising cosmetics, clothing, and mass media such as television, film and magazines. Numerous posts are articles contain ways even for new mothers to drop the pregnancy weight faster than before. The contents of the majority of these medias are not real and retouched but still we as a society feel the need to express this unattainable goal of beauty. Classifying bulimia as a culture-bound syndrome increases awareness and allows those suffering with the condition to seek counsel in peer groups or professional medical attention for their physical symptoms of eroding teeth or the mental afflictions which are most likely the cause of the syndrome. In another culture bulimia may not be viewed as a syndrome at all. Excessive exercise could be used to rid the body of toxins that are poisoning the body or purging could be seen as a ritualistic practice. Some cultures don’t classify mental illness are such and treat all illness the same as a holistic approach.

  3. Alex Chavez-Yenter says:

    Culture is the association of a group with common values, beliefs, origin, and language that is not necessarily geographically bound due to globalization. I do believe bulimia should be considered a culture-bound syndrome because it seems most prevalent in the U.S., and more broadly, Western society that emphasize body image. Popular culture can define an average persons perception on physical beauty and can have huge implications in the psyche. In this way, we’ve created an illness that should not exist and does not exist in cultures that do not emphasize body image the way we do. Considering bulimia a culture-bound syndrome is to imply that the illness is not “real” and is entirely psychological, and therefore, less serious to someone outside the cultural context where bulimia occurs. This downplays the graveness of the illness and how difficult it may be to overcome.

    To explain bulimia to a culture where famine is largely problematic would be quite a challenge. That culture may not have access to the type of media we are constantly surrounded by that shapes our view on body image and contributes to the illness. For this reason, it is hard to fathom a way to explain the disease on the outside culture’s terms. One could explain that there is a physical image, or a god-like being that we strive to look like and some take it so seriously that they purge their food to promote weight loss in an effort to improve the appearance of their body.

  4. mackin24 says:

    I believe the term culture describes everything a certain group stands for and identifies with. A culture mainly has the same beliefs and aims to proclaim a similar lifestyle. A culture may have other things in common, such as location and social standing. I believe this illness should be described as a culture bound syndrome, because the media has portrayed such high standards for us to live up to in American culture. There are not many advantages to this culture bound disorder besides the fact that those who suffer are not alone. Because our culture puts such great pressure on everyone equally there are most likely many other people suffering equally from the disorder. The disadvantages are never ending for this disorder. There are extremely health risks and concerns. There are also mental issues that go hand in hand with this disorder. Sadly, society has put so much pressure on our culture to be perfect that others will be criticized if they are not up to these standards. This condition may be explained in another culture as a good thing. There may be cultures which see this as a cleanse to release all the bad substances in our bodies that collect over time. These toxins would be released through purging.

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