Anorexia in the United States

Anorexia nervosa is a psychiatric disorder characterized by a fear of weight gain. People suffering from anorexia generally have an abnormal behavior toward eating and self-induce severe weight loss. Individuals suffering from anorexia will go to great lengths to avoid losing weight which can cause them to overexercise and starve themselves. Anorexia stems from a negative body image, even if they are very thin, which causes them to be unable to maintain a normal, healthy body weight. Researchers have found that individuals with anorexia are attempting to to deal with a lost sense of control and perfectionism which is manifested through extreme weight loss and food restriction. According to the article, “people with anorexia often feel that their self worth is tied to how thin they are.” Anorexia is found most commonly in teenagers in industrialized countries and is often brought on by a traumatic event or other emotional problems. Physical symptoms of anorexia nervosa include excessive weight loss, irregular of absent menstrual periods, thinning hair, dry skin, upset stomach, low blood pressure, fatigue, abnormal heart rhythm, among others. Psychological symptoms of anorexia nervosa include distorted self perception, preoccupation with food, refusal to eat, inability to remember, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and depression.

The biological dimension of the illness is the extreme deterioration the body is put through when suffering from anorexia and also the other conditions that can arise from anorexia, such as heart problems and osteoporosis. Anorexia is a very prevalent problem in American culture, many professionals believe is the result of runways and advertisements showing increasingly impossibly thin models that young women think they need to look like to have any sense of worth. Individually, this disease can be very difficult to recover from as the recovery process can last throughout a lifetime.

Some treatments for anorexia include combinations of psychotherapy, family therapy, and medication. This combination can provide the sufferer with the psychological, physical, and familial support they need to fully recover.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Haley Macko says:

    I define culture as a shared existence, a way of life that is unique for only those members that identify with that particular culture. Culture encompasses social organizations, languages, traditions, beliefs and religions. No culture is static, but instead continually changes because of globalization or the integration of many different cultures.
    Western culture is very concerned with appearing beautiful and aspiring to be thin. A slender, youthful physique is the ideal and expressing self-discipline and control over ones body is the product of a western society. And its deviation from this cultural norm that compels people to seek additional ways to attain this standard deemed valuable by society, even if this means engaging in harmful practices, such as anorexia nervosa. This social stress resulting from the influence of culture, limitedly restricted to Western societies and their focus on controlling ones environment, makes me think anorexia nervosa should be classified as a culture bound syndrome.
    If there is any advantage to be found by labeling anorexia nervosa as a culture bound syndrome it is that it is imposing awareness in our society that health and disease aren’t exclusively biological and that being too thin can be detrimental to health, as much as being obese is to the ideal body image (and fitness). A disadvantage of anorexia nervosa as a culture bound syndrome is that as long as Western societies associate plumpness with feelings of negativity and unattractiveness, it is highly likely that there will always be individuals affected by anorexia nervosa.
    Food restriction in other cultures can be explained, not as a result of starving oneself to look thin, but as a lifestyle choice. For example, Christian ascetics shun food to demonstrate their submission and to feel closer to god. In addition to religious devotion, anorexia in some cultures is part of ceremonial acts or rite of passages to better health.

  2. Maureen John says:

    For me, culture is a set of traditions and beliefs that bind a group of people together from a certain geographical region. I believe that culture is something that can be adapted to in the changing world, while still holding it’s fundamental values in place. I see culture as an entity that combines both traditional values and implements modern ideas among a certain group of people. I definitely believe that anorexia is an illness in the United States and it should be classified as a culture-bound syndrome. The advantages that I see by classifying anorexia as a CBS is that it will raise awareness among American youths that it is not healthy to be too thin. It is also important to target the media that heavily emphasizes the importance of “good looks” in our western culture. If you think about anorexia in a different culture such as in Africa, it is a completely different story. Many Africans are malnourished and tend to be skinnier than the average American because of their diets and lack of nutritional resources that are made available to the public. This is one reason why anorexia would not be considered an illness in Africa because it is not a choice for them to not eat, for many it is because they simply don’t have food.

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