The Causes of Eating Disorders: A Socio-cultural Perspective .
Various theories exist concerning what causes the presence of eating disorders in certain individuals. Some psychologists argue the fact that the disorders are based upon a biological predisposition, derived from studies concerning specific activity in the lateral hypothalamus, the presence of the obese gene, or pituitary insufficiencies, to name a few (Ward, Tiller, Treasure, & Russell, 1999). The other major theory regarding the source of these disorders emphasizes cultural factors and the role they play in their development in an individual. There have been extensive studies concerning these two ideas, resulting in evidence supporting both of the theories. However, this paper will focus upon the second theory of the psychosocial reaction to society as the major focal point for the study of eating disorders. .
There are several social pressures that may, either individually or as a group, contribute to the occurrence of eating disorders in certain persons. We have seen a great decline in the body size of models and actresses in the past few decades, concurrent to the huge increase in reported symptoms of destructive eating behavior (Wegner, Hartmann, & Geist, 2000). It is no secret that the "Western Ideal- of body image, although unrealistic for the average person, may in fact be a major influence in the misconceptions which cause such syndromes. Even to a person not educated in the fields of psychology or nutrition, it seems unlikely to be merely a coincidence that as the media expanded to reach more and more individuals, a higher number of people reported dissatisfaction with their bodies (Anderson & DiDomenico, 1992). The images of nearly emaciated women in fashion magazines, billboards, commercials, movies, and television are viewed by millions of people each day. Whether consciously or subconsciously, those images become part of a person's perception of societal ideals, and it is no surprise that oftentimes, individuals use them as paradigms for which to compare their own appearances.