Eating Disorders Regarding Socio-Cultural Factors

Eating disorders are a considerable issue for many people and one which is discussed extensively in media and studied by researchers. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders outlines the three main types of eating disorders, which include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder. Each of the aforementioned conditions has its unique characteristics and treatments. There are many factors involved in the development of eating disorders, including genetic, psychological, and even sociocultural ones. Since eating disorders constitute a topical problem, exploring their aspects in detail is essential.

As mentioned above, there are three main eating disorders, and it is important to provide definitions for them. Anorexia nervosa refers to a condition that implies a person experiencing weight loss due to an intentional decision to restrict the volume of calories they consume (Nevid et al., 2021). A person with anorexia can avoid eating sufficient amounts of calories in different ways, including through the rejection of food and the use of laxatives. Bulimia nervosa is a condition that involves episodes of uncontrolled overeating followed by behaviors targeting weight loss, including vomiting, use of laxatives, exercise, and fasting (Nevid et al., 2021). Binge-eating is another life-threatening eating disorder that is characterized by regular episodes of consumption of excessive quantities of food. Although bulimia nervosa and binge eating both involve overeating, they differ from each other. Unlike in the case of binge eating, a person with bulimia tries to radically lose the calories they previously consumed. Essentially, people who have bulimia attempt to empty their stomachs almost instantly after consuming large quantities of food.

The incidence of every eating disorder type has been rising steadily over the past decades and especially in Western countries. Anorexia is a condition that mostly affects females, particularly during adolescence. Bulimia, as opposed to anorexia which impacts up to 1 percent of females, can be a problem for up to 3 percent of young women (Nevid et al., 2021). Binge eating is self-reported by more than 30 percent of people, while 8 percent of people use self-induce vomiting (Nevid et al., 2021). The choices of treatment for eating disorders differ. For instance, anorexia treatment involves immediate weight gain through coercive methods and interpersonal therapy to help the patient avoid focusing on societal standards of thinness. Cases with bulimia are treated using antidepressant medication, interpersonal psychotherapy, and cognitive therapy, which help to change dieting behaviors and self-induced vomiting. Binge eating is treated with the help of cognitive therapy and antidepressants, especially those of the SSRI family, which decrease the frequency of binge-eating episodes.

There are various factors that affect the development of eating disorders in different ways. People who suffer from anorexia and bulimia are affected by cognitive factors since they fear becoming fat. Additionally, sociocultural factors play a major in the onset of eating disorders because many people want to achieve a body image that is based on the public standards of beauty. Unrealistic thinness is considered to be aesthetically pleasing in the culture of many countries, which causes people to strive for it. Studies show that women exposed to Western beauty ideals in China had a higher rate of eating disorders. There can be family factors, such as conflicts with relatives, which can cause people to avoid eating or begin overeating. The main biological factor is the decreased level of serotonin which is found in many bulimic women, which causes them to binge eat.

Eating disorders are significant problems in many societies worldwide, and they are often caused by similar factors. Anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder are the three main types of eating disorders. Eating disorders frequently become the result of sociocultural standards of beauty, which enable people to fear gaining weight. All of the conditions can be treated using medication and cognitive therapy, focusing on the shift in the behaviors of people.


Nevid, J., Rathus, S., & Greene, B. (2021). Abnormal psychology in a changing world (11th ed.). Pearson.

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