Anorexia and Influence of Cultural Factors On It

​Culture is a very complex and difficult word that has many different meanings and perceptions. However, the common meaning of culture is the way a group of people lives or the way they do things. For example, Christmas is a holiday part of the western culture as people in the western world celebrate this tradition every year. In relation, just like how each culture has its own traditions, values, beliefs, etc, some cultures have a culture-specific syndrome. Culture-specific syndromes are psychological and somatic ailments and are only recognized for a specific culture. These syndromes are caused due to cultural factors or influences. One well-known culture-specific syndrome is Anorexia nervosa. This syndrome is an eating disorder as people starve themselves as they are not satisfied with their self-image due to their inner feeling of being too overweight. This physiological condition is common for middle and upper-age european and american girls but nowadays it is starting to be common for girls all over the world. In addition, this syndrome is associated with western culture. ​Therefore, cultural factors like family and mass media have developed and contributed to the prevalence of anorexia nervosa in teen girls.

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In today’s modern day era, society is exposed to various forms of media like fashion magazines, social media, and advertisements from the beauty and diet industries. In relation, mass media often sends a message to people that the girls that are skinny and fit have the most value and importance to the world. To add on, other body types have little to no value in society. Moving on, fashion magazines a type of media has played a role in this illness. The reason being is that these magazines often display images of models who are extremely thin and skinny. However, in reality, photoshop has been used to change the physical shape of these females. This results in young girls being influenced by these magazines and taking extreme measures to lose weight to achieve an unrealistic body shape. Furthermore, the beauty and diet industry has played a factor as they display images in the form of advertisements and commercials describing the ways females can achieve the body society perceives as valuable. To add on, it causes young girls to be discouraged with their bodies and influences them to try different methods shown by the beauty and diet industries to change their bodies to an unrealistic body shape. Lastly, social media has played a factor in this physiological condition. Common social media platforms with a high usage rate from girls are snapchat, instagram, facebook, twitter and etc. This makes it difficult for females to escape the influence of the social media world. The reason being is that social media is overflowed and filled with images and videos of thin and skinny females which results in young girls comparing themselves to the images on social media. This results in females feeling uncomfortable with themselves and it causes a significant change in their eating patterns. In relation, young girls are under constant pressure in having an idealistic body as all of their peers have in some form a presence in social media. To add on, young girls start to care about the opinion of people on social media even opinions from complete strangers. This leads to the issue of people who shame young girls on social media by making remarks about the female’s body shape. As a result, it results in depression for females and the young girls starve themselves trying to lose weight. Lastly, as time goes by society changes alongside its norms and values.

Western Culture in today’s era has perceived a perfect image for females as said above which is a thin, white, blond female. This unrealistic perception has had a negative impact on North American society. The reason being is that the media is portraying a specific type of person and influencing it as a norm in society. This results in a problematic issue as almost most young girls cannot fit this description. The reason why it is a problematic issue is that young girls start to feel dissatisfied with their body and lose confidence and self-esteem. This leads to severe depression for the young girls and they will try different ways to lose weight and sometimes they end up dying due to the extreme nature of their method of trying to lose weight. To continue, due to the exposure of mass media all over the world it has become a universal standard for females to look skinny despite it being a norm for only western culture. Due to these images being exposed all over the world young girls now have a concern or worries regarding their weight causing them to take consequential actions for their weight. Therefore, evidently, media in the form of advertisements, social media, fashion magazines, and much more have contributed to the illness of anorexia nervosa in young girls across the globe.

Moving on, people think that families represent love, unity, and peace. In relation, they believe families have full trust in each other and they will never let their kind down in any way. However, oftentimes families apply pressure and influence on girls regarding their weight. They believe their daughters should have a skinny and fit physique as it’ll make their daughters look perfect in the eyes of people in society. In relation, parents want their daughters to look fit as it will allow her to find a suitable match for marriage.

Furthermore, oftentimes family members like uncles, cousins, sisters, brothers, aunts, father, mother and much more give and advise critical and harsh comments to a young girl. For example, “ You are too fat, no one will ever marry you”. Comments like these can emotionally hurt a young girl and can lead that individual to find different methods to have a physical shape suitable in the eyes of her family. Moving on, sexual or domestic abuse from family can influence a female to stop eating and starve themselves​. 

Also, research has shown that females that have the physiological illness have parents that are highly overprotective, and perfectionists and they believe in one goal that their daughter should be successful. This results in high unachievable expectations for females as having a slim physique is part of their parent’s conception of a female being successful. Often times when young girls perceive they are not living up to their parent’s expectations they try harsh weight loss methods trying to gain some success in their lives. Moving forward, young girls often develop habits of not eating food when their parents are going through a crisis for instance, divorce or domestic violence which is a very common issue in North American society. To conclude, it is evidently shown how the influence of families can lead a young girl to develop anorexia nervosa.

To conclude, ​cultural factors like family and mass media have developed and contributed to the prevalence of anorexia nervosa in teen girls. To add on, the media in the form of fashion magazines, social media, and the beauty and diet industries have given a lot of pressure and changed how young girls perceive the world. To add, in today’s era, Western society has a new set of cultural norms for females which has applied pressure on girls on their body shape. In relation, families have applied high expectations and unrealistic goals for their daughters. Therefore, this physiological condition can be solved if females stopped caring about what other people think and focus on what’s better for them. From this, it will allow them to have healthy and happy lives without caring about how society will perceive them for not following cultural norms.

Work Cited

  1. Fairburn, C. G., & Harrison, P. J. (2003, February 1). Eating disorders
  2. McGarry, K. (2020).​Death and Illness​[PowerPointslides]. Retrieved from ​http://avenue.mcmaster.ca
  3. Morris, A. M., & Katzman, D. K. (2003, May 1). impact of the media on eating disorders in children ​287–28 http://avenue.mcmaster.ca/
07 July 2022

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