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Anorexia Nervosa Health Center

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The Changing Face of Anorexia

Anorexia is getting older – and younger – and not just white and female. What's going on?

Cultural Pressures to Blame?

Experts agree that precious little is still understood about anorexia and other eating disorders in "nontraditional" populations, like men, minority groups, older women, and younger children. But many suggest that it might have to do with the pervasiveness of cultural pressures. "We have a culture that is fat-phobic, that has unrealistic notions of how thin a body type ought to be and at what age," says Mickley.

"One of the things we've been trying to figure out is how much these disorders can be attributed to inherent biological factors, and how much comes from the culture," says Bunnell. (A growing body of studies point to a strong genetic connection for anorexia.)

"The obvious answer is that it's always both. But these days, the cultural pressure about weight is so high, the focus on obesity is so intense, and the culture has broadened so much," he notes. Maybe as the culture has gotten louder and more intense, it exposes more of that latent vulnerability."

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