The Cost of Competence: Why Inequality Causes Depression, Eating Disorders, and Illness in Women

Hardcover | August 1, 1995

byBrett Silverstein, Deborah Perlick

not yet rated|write a review
Since the advent of the women's movement, women have made unprecedented gains in almost every field, from politics to the professions. Paradoxically, doctors and mental health professionals have also seen a staggering increase in the numbers of young women suffering from an epidemic ofdepression, eating disorders, and other physical and psychological problems. In The Cost of Competence, authors Brett Silverstein and Deborah Perlick argue that rather than simply labeling individual women as, say, anorexic or depressed, it is time to look harder at the widespread prejudices withinour society and child-rearing practices that lead thousands of young women to equate thinness with competence and success, and femininity with failure. They argue that continuing to treat depression, anxiety, anorexia and bulimia as separate disorders in young women can, in many cases, be amisguided approach since they are really part of a single syndrome. Furthermore, their fascinating research into the lives of forty prominent women from Elizabeth I to Eleanor Roosevelt show that these symptoms have been disrupting the lives of bright, ambitious women not for decades, but forcenturies. Drawing on all the latest findings, rare historical research, cross-cultural comparisons, and their own study of over 2,000 contemporary women attending high schools and colleges, the authors present powerful new evidence to support the existence of a syndrome they call anxious somaticdepression. Their investigation shows that the first symptoms usually surface in adolescence, most often in young women who aspire to excel academically and professionally. Many of the affected women grew up feeling that their parents valued sons over daughters. They identified intellectually withtheir successful fathers, not with their traditional homemaker mothers. Disordered eating is one way of rejecting the feminine bodies they perceive as barriers to achievement and recognition. Silverstein and Perlick uncover medical descriptions matching their diagnosis in Hippocratic texts from the fourth century B.C., in anthropological studies of Africa, Asia, and Latin America, and in case studies of many noted psychologists and psychiatrists, including the "hysteric" patientsFreud used to develop his theories on psychoanalysis. They have also discovered that statistics on disordered eating, depression, and a host of other symptoms soared in eras in which women's opportunities grew--particularly the 1920s, when record numbers of women entered college and the workforce,the boyish silhouette of the flapper became the feminine ideal, and anorexia became epidemic, and again from the 1970s to the present day. The authors show that identifying this devastating syndrome is a first step toward its prevention and cure. The Cost of Competence presents an urgent message to parents, educators, policymakers, and the medical community on the crucial importance of providing young women with equal opportunity,and equal respect.

Pricing and Purchase Info

$61.50

Ships within 1-3 weeks
Ships free on orders over $25

From Our Editors

Drawing on all the latest findings, rare historical research, cross-cultural comparisons, and their own study of more than 2,000 contemporary women attending high schools and colleges, the authors present powerful new evidence to support the existence of a link between talented women, depression, and eating disorders. Illustrations

From the Publisher

Since the advent of the women's movement, women have made unprecedented gains in almost every field, from politics to the professions. Paradoxically, doctors and mental health professionals have also seen a staggering increase in the numbers of young women suffering from an epidemic ofdepression, eating disorders, and other physical an...

Brett Silverstein is Associate Professor, Department of Psychology, City College of New York, and the author of Fed Up. Deborah Perlick is Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology, Department of Psychiatry, Cornell University Medical College.
Format:HardcoverDimensions:224 pages, 9.49 × 6.38 × 0.87 inPublished:August 1, 1995Publisher:Oxford University Press

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195069862

ISBN - 13:9780195069860

Look for similar items by category:

Customer Reviews of The Cost of Competence: Why Inequality Causes Depression, Eating Disorders, and Illness in Women

Reviews

Extra Content

From Our Editors

Drawing on all the latest findings, rare historical research, cross-cultural comparisons, and their own study of more than 2,000 contemporary women attending high schools and colleges, the authors present powerful new evidence to support the existence of a link between talented women, depression, and eating disorders. Illustrations

Editorial Reviews

"By explicitly linking a pattern of symptoms to the social position of young women, they argue powerfully for a cure at the level of society rather than at the individual or family levels"--Women's Review of Books