Bulimia in United States

Culture Bound Syndromes can affect all cultures throughout the world; just some are prevalent in different areas. Various forms of CBS are named and viewed differently based on that culture, something Americans may think it is ludicrous; a region in South Africa may view the CBS as normal behavior. For example, in the United States we name eating disorders, as Anorexia Nervosa or Bulimia Nervosa, etc. BN is when a person binges on food until they feel over eaten then they purge themselves by vomiting or using laxatives, this is to prevent from gaining weight. They also use enemas or exercise excessively, these behaviors on average occur at least twice a week or in worst causes several times a day. An article by several authors describe that BN is considered more of a CBS than AN, because it can be inherited. So, genetically they are associated with differential pathoplasticity. They state that most of the causes of BN had an influence of Western background i.e. United States. Such as, the author stated that Japan had emulated some of United States following World War II, so BN is prevalent in the United States and this non – western nation.
The biological aspect of this illness is that individuals can experience loss of air, vision, teeth and dry skin this can also cause other health complications such as acid reflux. The cultural aspects of this illness are seen on television and magazines of what beauty should look like. Body image is important to people because it usually how they can attract others to like them. Some women base their physical, attributes by someone confirming they look nice or not. For example, a girl might ask her friend if she looks fat in a dress, if a friend confirms then she might not buy the dress and feel as though she needs to take action to not look fat. This is also wanting be accepted by the opposite sex might find them appealing. Although this illness is based on the persons perception of themselves this is a psychological problem.
An individuals dimensions of the illness is similar to the culture aspect, however, it can affect them on how they feel in their clothes. For example, if a young woman feels as though she is obese is not likely that she would wear a bikini to a beach. Treatment for this illness can be found on hotlines, on the Internet, and treatment centers in that person area. This is a gateway for an individual to receive psychiatric and medical help for the illness. However, the person has to want help and the people they are in their life should encourage for them to seek help.
Keel, Pamela K. and Kelly L. Klump. 2003. “Are Eating Disorders Culture-Bound Syndromes? Implications for Conceptualizing their Etiology.” Psychological Bulletin 129 (5): 747-769. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0033-2909.129.5.747. http://ezproxy.msu.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/614444523?accountid=12598. Accessed July 17, 2014

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Jaana Ashtiani says:

    From my understanding, Culture is an overall categorization for a set of beliefs, customs, rituals, rules, food, and clothing shared by a group of people who originated in one place. Seeing as how mindset and beliefs are a specific attribute of culture, I would have to say that Bulimia is definitely an illness whose characteristics can be defined as those of a CBS. The fact that it is extremely prevalent in Western society is already an indicator that its causes are based on cultural factors. The societal expectations of bodies in Western society are the main reasoning for this illness, therefore it’s treatments and healing methods are also culturally related. Of course once we accept this as a CBC illness, it then makes it somewhat more socially acceptable in a way because we now have something to blame it on: society.

    Seeing as how this issue is being related to culture, it leads to the assumption that in different cultures or societies this illness may be frowned upon or even ridiculed. For example, if those in less privileged third world countries heard of our Western disease of binge eating and purging, they would have every right to ridicule the idea of wasting such food. Also their society would not endorse skinnier bodies since lack of food and nutrition is a huge issue, therefore they would not see the appeal in attempting to make one’s self skinnier. Perhaps those in a different culture would even see this as a selfish act and completely disregard it as a CBS. Therefore, depending on what approach is used and what societal context we are in, one can argue the relevance of any disease as a CBS including bulimia.

  2. Taylor Cheney says:

    I believe that culture is something that is especially hard to define, because so many people look at it in a different way. To me, culture is a combination of many things including environment, ethnicities, spiritual beliefs, and behaviors of people. I had a hard time deciding whether or not bulimia was a culture bound syndrome. I bounced back and forth because many think it could be considered a culture bound syndrome due to the fact that appearance is so important, especially in the United States today. So many people in the United States view anything other than stick thin as unattractive and believe that you are looked down on for being overweight, which could make it a culture bound syndrome because it is so prevalent in American culture today. But after thinking more into it, I decided that bulimia should not be considered a CBS. I believe that becoming bulimic is a personal decision. Of course society makes you think that you should lose weight and not be obese, but to me, that does not make it classifiable as a CBS.
    Advantages of bulimia being a culture bound syndrome could be that it gives people an excuse for it. If society is forcing you to feel that you have to look a certain way, it gives people a way to cope with having this disease. Disadvantages are that when people realize that it is not a CBS, they may feel more guilt towards themselves for letting themselves go to the point of bulimic, it could make them feel more depressed and worsen their condition.
    In other cultures, being bulimic could be looked at from many different ways. In some countries, having extra meat on your bones and being heavier is a sign of health, while in other countries, there are so many societal factors forcing you to believe that being skinnier is better. This goes to show how various cultures around the world really do impact the way diseases and illnesses are looked at.

  3. Devin Jay-Garfein says:

    My definition of culture is the similar beliefs, values, and understandings of a group of people who come from an original location. After reading your post I believe Bulimia is a culture bound syndrome. People in western societies suffer from it, but it is not seen all around the world. I remember in high school I took a class that had a short unit on bulimia. We learned that there are parts of Africa that think it would be crazy to binge or purge because they identify curves with beauty and not being deathly skinny. In contrast, America and other western societies identify it as a major health problem. Many people who suffer from this emphasize that they are not beautiful by media standards. These media standards are cultural based. The idea of beauty changes all around the world.

    As I mentioned before not all cultures have bulimia and might not understand why people have it. In communities where food is more scarce or harder obtain it would be unimaginable to waste it. Purging or not eating might never cross their minds. They also don’t want to look really skinny because that could look like they are malnourished and sick. If they have more meat on their bones it shows they can afford the food and they are healthy.

  4. Krystn Hartner says:

    Culture, to me, is when a group of people have similar inherited beliefs, values and knowledge. Similar attitudes and behavior also contribute to ones culture. Before this activity I would have never thought bulimia was a culture-bound syndrome, but reading others posts about it makes me categorize it as a CBS. I believe this is a CBS because more people in the western societies relate to it compared to other places in the world. I read an article once that said bulimia is mostly associated with people who are economically well off and are of the Caucasian descent. A huge disadvantage of this being a CBS is that once it is bound to a certain society than the people who get this illness blame it on that alone.

    In other cultures bulimia seems frowned upon because of the health in other societies. Wasting food to throw it up right after would seem crazy for someone to do in third world countries where the food is scarce and they have no meat on their bones already. However, in other societies where the pressure is extremely hard on the body image, binging and purging isn’t as big of a problem as it should be.

  5. Moriah Hill says:

    In my own words, I would say that culture is the way of living for a group of people in a specific geographic area. A way of living, set of values, set of traditions, attitudes, beliefs, and so much more. People of the same culture usually share the same religion, language,interest in food and taste in music.
    I would agree that bulimia is nervosa is a culture bound syndrome for the United States. My reason for that is because although bulimia nervosa can happen to anyone in any culture, it is most common in the United States. Especially most prevalent in our young preteen and teenage girls. To be more detailed, it is even more common in white teens than any other race or culture. A disadvantage is that most people who experience bulimia nervosa go through it due to other peoples opinion of them. It is an illness caused by the stress that other people bring about. Vomiting and becoming unhealthy due to another persons view of you is sad and wrong.
    In other cultures, they may think that this is a psychological disorder and result to saying something may not be right with that persons soul. Other cultures are much more appreciative of food than the United States.

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