In a world like the one we live in today, where technology and social media are essential to the daily tasks of most civilians, our values as a society are rapidly changing to meet the social requirements and stereotypes of our generation. The media becomes a source of information on how to look, how to dress, and basically, how to live your own life. This may seem fine in moderation but when people take these values and stereotypes too far, it can be seriously detrimental to their health, both mentally and physically. For example, teens and adults choose to put their own health at risk by using sunless tanning beds, and actually pay moneyto be exposed to harmful UV rays. Another example would be the eating disorders that have resulted from this cultural obsession with thinness that our society seems to value. The rise in eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, has affected as many as 7 million women and 1 million men, ages ten to early twenties.
There are three theoretical methods used to better understand and treat these eating disorders that millions of americans are struggling with each year. The first method used in describing the reasons many people develop such eating disorders is called the biomedical model. This model tends to assert that eating disorders are caused by biological factors. These factors could be things such as an imbalance of hormones in one’s body to malfunctioning neurotransmitters in a person’s brain chemistry. The biomedical model points to a person’s genetics and innate physiological features as factors that contribute to the development of such disorders, excluding the many social and cultural factors that people face. The second method, known as the psychological model, views such eating disorders as a multi-dimensional problem and includes biological, psychological and sociological factors as the causes for developing such disorders. This model indicates that these disorders may stem from a range of personal issues that an individual may be facing, such as low self-esteem or strained relationships in a person’s life. Theorists that focus on this model hypothesize that the repressed emotional problems of the individual become expressed through an abnormal relationship with food, while the cultural aspects that society tends to value simply reinforce such behavior that emphasizes thinness.
The psychological model can help explain the relationship between sexual abuse and eating disorders, in which there seems to be a definite correlation. This model suggests that the control an individual has over what they eat may serve as a mechanism for gaining a sense of identity or control over their life. Most victims of sexual abuse feel an immense loss of control over their bodies and even their life in general after being abused. Victims will often feel ashamed of their body afterwards, and may carry a sense of guilt with them for the rest of their lives. Some feel a need to push others away, in order to protect themselves and some turn to addiction to cope. Whether a person turns to drugs or food, binging offers a sense of comfort and control while masking their emotions of pain and anger. Purging may serve as a way to cleanse the victim’s feelings of being dirty and violated, or in some cases it serves as a means of self-punishment. Survivors of abuse often suffer from post traumatic stress disorder, and as the psychological method states, this types of emotional suffering drastically increases their chances of developing an eating disorder.
The third method of understanding these disorders that are dramatically increasing is called the feminist model. This model was created by feminist researchers who focused more on analyzing the nature of these diseases and the way they were classified throughout history to better explain their role throughout society. The feminist model asserts that these eating disorders are not specific to race, but rather to gender. It uses the history of women’s right to show how these eating disorders have formed and how the societal views on women throughout history have reiderated this obsession with thinness.
All three of these theoretical models help us to better understand how these disorders play a role in our society today, and mostly likely in any other society around the globe as well. Eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia are not confined to the “white americans” and can be found in almost any society today. The fact that racism and class standing have their own contributions to such eating disorders can go overlooked, due to the fact that African men and women and those who live in poverty with these diseases can go undiagnosed and untreated. As the psychological model explains, the emotional state of an individual can have a huge impact on the likelihood of developing an eating disorder. Therefore it can be assumed that people who suffer from external social stressors such as racism and those of class standing, would be more likely to develop these disorders.
All of these models offer useful explanations that aid in understanding how eating disorders can develop, how they can be treated, and how they play a role in the society we live in today. However, I do not believe that these eating disorders can be fully explained by understanding just one method, but rather by understanding all three methods as a whole. The bottom line is that it would be impossible to try and define the reasons for these disorders with solely one method. We must look at each method of analysis to completely understand this cultural obsession with thinness and the many effects it has had on our society.