Body Image and Eating Disorders Among Immigrants
Eating disorders are generally defined in psychiatric terms as a disturbance in the perception of body shape and poor body image, resulting in restrictive or binge eating/purging patterns. Current literature had conceptualized eating disorders as culture-bound syndromes with nearly 7 million Americans and 1.15 million citizens of the UK, predominantly women, suffering from these syndromes. Idealized and normally unattainable body types of extreme thinness appear to be at the core of the syndrome. Although every culture has a normative body type associated with attractiveness, associated eating disorders had been found predominantly in Western countries. As worldwide immigration has reached historical highs with movement patterns from Asian, African, or Latin American countries to Western ones, the question has been raised as to the effects of immigration on women’s body image and risks for eating disorders. This chapter summarizes the extant literature on the effects of immigration and acculturation on body image and eating behavior. The effects are complex with home culture, level of acculturation, and other demographic variables affecting clinical dissatisfaction with one’s body and disordered eating. Methodological problems plague this research area and the inconsistent use of scales and other assessments impede rigorous comparisons or the ability to integrate the literature.
KeywordsBody Image Anorexia Nervosa Eating Disorder Body Dissatisfaction Immigrant Woman
American Psychiatric Association
The authors appreciate the assistance of Victoria Salvo and Deanna Quinlan in conducting the literature review.
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