Anorexia nervosa is one of the disorders associated with eating that is characterised by a person’s fear of gaining weight. This fear leads to poor eating patterns that is accompanied by malnutrition leading to excessive weight loss. It can also be defined as an eating disorder that results from an individual’s reduced appetite or even complete food aversion. It is a psychological disorder and mainly affects girls and young women.
This disorder is usually associated with the women’s desire to become thinner or slim which forces the concerned person to engage in an endless cycle of feeding restrictions up to a point that is almost equal to starvation. The individual becomes obsessed to this habit. This disorder is serious and life threatening. According to the American Psychiatric Association’s diagnostic and statistical manual for mental disorder(DSM), anorexia nervosa exists in two distinct subtypes, binge-eating or what can be referred to as purging type and the other is the restricting type(http://www. medterms.
com/script/main/art. asp? articlekey=2268, http://www. csa. com/discoveryguides/redline/overview. php) This disorder affects women more than men. Statistics indicate that 95% of its victims are female. This does not actually mean that men cannot develop this disorder. It manifests itself when the victim is at her/his adolescent stage. At least 1% of all adolescent girls in the developed economies suffer from this disorder. In racial groups, Caucasians produce the highest number of victims suffering from anorexia nervosa. In social classes, the upper and middle class are highly affected by the disorder.
According to the report on an investigation which was carried out by the National Institute of Mental health (NIMH) in the United States, at most 3. 7% of the total women population in America become victims of this disorder at one time in their lives. Professionally, those people who take part in athletics, modeling, dancing and acting are at higher risk of becoming victims of this disorder. The reason is because such professions are usually associated with thinness(http://www. medterms. com/script/main/art. asp? articlekey=2268,)
The disorder has been highly associated with societal demands and other family related issues. These demands cause pressure that forces an individual to develop poor self image. Some researchers associate it with family dysfunction that makes members of a particular family extremely interdependent making it almost impossible for them to achieve individual identity. This even makes the children, usually the girls to espouse a feeling of intense fear to grow up. Family situations such as poor communication, poor conflict management and excess parental expectation can also lead to anorexia nervosa.
Researchers are yet to prove their suggestions that individual’s genetic component also plays a vital role in the susceptibility of an individual to anorexia nervosa. Such a research is also expected to investigate whether dysfunction of hypothalamus as well as neurotransmitters’ imbalance level in the brain also causes anorexia(http://www. medterms. com/script/main/art. asp? articlekey=2268) This disorder is diagonalized by four characteristics as the American Psychiatric Association’s diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorder (DSM-IV) suggest.
First, the victim is unable to maintain his/her body weight at the minimal weight that a normal person should have with respect to his/ her age and height. This means that he/she has more than 15% weight deficit from the expected weight. Secondly, the victim develops fear of gaining “excess weight” even though he/she is underweight. This individual develops a distorted self perception. His/her weight loss cannot be acknowledged. Fourthly, women may develop amenorrhea (they miss more than three consecutive monthly periods)(http://www. medterms. com/script/main/art. asp? articlekey=2268)
This disorder has psychological, physical and behavioral symptoms. The psychological and behavioral symptoms include the following; Serious underweight that leads to depression, high irritability that may lead to social withdrawal, disruption in sleep that may lead to fatigue in day time, decreased attention as well as concentration, obsessive compulsive disorder (one is obsessed with food related thoughts). These people lack self perception and become compliant. Majority are high achievers. At one time in their life, such people become alcoholic, drug addicts or gamblers.
They mostly enjoy compulsions such as sex, housework, shopping and exercising. As a result of the above, their interest in previous activities diminishes. Others become depressed. (http://www. medterms. com/script/main/art. asp? articlekey=2268) The physical symptoms of anorexia nervosa include the following. The victims develop complications in circulatory system. These include bradycardia and hypotension as a result of starvation. Arrhythmia may also occur as a result of starvation and severe loss of body weight. Another physical symptom includes gastrointestinal complications.
These include constipation, slow absorption of food in the body, abdominal pain, poor waste elimination from the body, abnormal level of enzyme in the body and liver damage. The endocrine system or glandular may also develop complications such as malfunction of physical and chemical processes that may affect menstrual cycle, hormone balance and thyroid glands. The kidney may also be affected leading to potassium deficiency in the body and abnormal urination frequency (increased or decreased). Electrolyte imbalance may also result from excessive use of laxatives or even frequent vomiting.
Anaemia may also develop. Other physical symptoms include dry and flaking skin that is yellowish in colour, fine and downy hair growth on arms, face, legs and back, hair loss, brittle nails and eroded dental enamel as a result of frequent vomiting rendering the victim toothless(http://www. medterms. com/script/main/art. asp? articlekey=2268 ) This disease indicates that there is a relationship between an individual’s body, the self image and culture. The ideals of slimness in women has highly been perpetuated by fashion and cosmetics’ industries in the western societies.
Many women want to become excessively thin as dictated by culture. This therefore develops the negative self image of being fat and the individual abstains from eating. Currently, there has evolved a culture for women to attain an ideal shape of being extremely slender. This figure that is associated with super models is characterised by thin waist, small breast and willowing limbs. In the western culture food is highly associated with issues concerning gender issues (roles and expectations) for females.
As the feminist theories explain, masculine body is ideologically juxtaposed as a thing that is actively working in as seen in patriarchal society. The feminine body is on the contrary seen as a vehicle that provides gratification. It is just there to be used and consumed. All subjects related to masculinity highly depends on feminine objects for both penetration as well as action purposes. Women are therefore imprisoned in patriarchal societies and they therefore develop anorexia in their effort to resist the pressures associated with such societies.
In these societies, the dominant cultures not only minimizes women but also controls them. The women enslave themselves by attempting to force themselves into thinness ideals through self-starvation as a symbol of internalizing the dominant culture. Anorexia on the other hand can also be observed as the women’s attempt to make their body autonomous and create body boundaries as a way of freeing themselves from any external incursions. Self discipline is therefore measured by food abstinence. Other attributes measured by food abstinence include the women’s purity together with self reliance.
The anorexia autonomy depicted by the model-like thin body shuts out the patriarchal dominated world. In another perspective, consumption of food expresses a woman’s desire. In this sense, womanhood is by definition undermined if women, through voracious appetite, threaten to be active subjects. As MacSween comments, flesh results from making appetite concrete. Brumberg also argues out that people can speak through appetite. For a woman to be fat, she signals an attempt to intrude into the space of masculinity. The more powerful and visible women become, the less massive they become.
This is contrary to the fact that huge body size indicate, power and mighty. Thin women have therefore been associated with success. Such a thin woman is thought to possess the will power to food abstinence. On the contrary, the women are expected to be neither visible nor powerful. Decreased female flesh is therefore associated with increased power, and, paradoxically, an indication of cancelled presence of the women in a patriarchal society(http://www. psychology4all. com/EatingDisorders. htm) ,http://www3. interscience. wiley.
com/journal/61007467/abstract? CRETRY=1&SRETRY=0 ) In the modern world, anorexia helps women to attain the desirable body shapes according to the dominant society’s norms. Anorexics do not therefore threaten the the patriarchy of the society. Anorexia nervosa therefore indicates the extend to which women have struggled for their freedom from cultural practices that have for a long time supported patriarchy both in families, and society at large. It has been used not only in search of women’s success in secular matters but also spiritual purity.
Food symbolism has usually been associated with female, more than men. Modern societal ideologies link both virility and masculinity. A man has always been associated with eating red meat. According to the western culture, it is assumed that one becomes what he/she eats. Both feeding patterns as well as food types consumed are determined by the body image the individual is expected to have as dictated by both gender and ideologies that dominate in any society (http://www. psychology4all. com/EatingDisorders. htm) References Anorexia, Retrieved from http://www.
medterms. com/script/main/art. asp? articlekey=2268 on 4th May, 2008 Dan Edelman, The Thin Red Line: Social Power & the Open Body, Retrieved from http://www. csa. com/discoveryguides/redline/overview. php on 4th May, 2008 Helen Malson, Wom? n under erasure: anorexic bodies in postmodern context, Retrieved from http://www3. interscience. wiley. com/journal/61007467/abstract? CRETRY=1&SRETRY=0 on 4th may, 2008 Rachel Simon-Kumar, Eating disorders, Retrieved from http://www. psychology4all. com/EatingDisorders. htm on 4th May, 2008