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The Effects of Media on the Skinny Side of Eating Disorders
What is the most deadly psychological disorder today? If you guessed an eating disorder, then you are right. According to WebMD, eating disorders are illnesses that cause a person to adopt harmful eating habits. So, does this make WebMD just a great resource, or is this really true, and is an eating disorder really a dangerous illness? Most sufferers of an eating disorder are often mocked about their problem, and they are not taken seriously. People should not misinterpret or disbelieve sufferers of an eating disorder because it is, in fact, a very serious illness. There are, however, minor cases of eating disorders but there are far too many deaths related to them, thus we must take this issue very seriously and approach it with care.
Why are eating disorders the greatest killers among the many different psychological disorders? This is because of the media, as well as the disorder’s dramatic and deadly affects on the body. Today, media is in our lives no matter where we go. From television, radio, and the news, to magazines, newspapers, and the internet, media plays a big role in the spreading ideas, norms, and styles to people. Media spreads information really quickly to millions of people. Media is around people no matter where they turn, and they face it on a daily basis in some form. So, how is media related to eating disorders? This question, and many other questions, will be answered after we get a better understanding of what an eating disorder is, its characteristics, statistics, and ways to prevent and treat it. I will, however, focus only on anorexia and bulimia because they are more affected by the media than overeating disorders are.
People with eating disorders obsess about their intake of food, and they spend a lot of time thinking about their weight and body image. Their body is badly affected both emotionally and physically. People with an eating disorder may suffer from a number of different symptoms, and not everyone gets the same symptoms as they vary from individual to individual. According to the Help Guide-Mental Health Issues, even though anorexia is the most revealed eating disorder in the media, bulimia is the most prevalent eating disorder.
A person suffering from anorexia sees themselves as fat when they are, in fact, skinny and underweight. Their weight does not match their height, activity level or age. They get bad memory, feel depressed, have a fear of gaining weight, feel light headed, and often faint. Women with anorexia may have problems with their menstrual cycle such as missed or late periods, as well as trouble getting pregnant. Woman who are pregnant have a higher risk of a miscarriage and a higher risk to need to deliver their baby through C-section. People suffering from anorexia can also have muscle and joint problems, kidney stones, kidney failure, anemia, bloating, constipation, low levels of potassium, magnesium, and sodium in their bodies, low blood pressure, slow heart rate, and heart failure. Some physical signs that can be seen on a person suffering from anorexia are dry or yellow skin, brittle nails, more hair growth on their body, and thin and brittle hair. A person with anorexia may also get cold easily, bruise easily, and feel down a lot.
A person suffering from bulimia can get the same effects as a person suffering from anorexia since both disorders involve the loss of major and rapid weight, which leads to very unhealthy changes in the body. Symptoms between anorexia and bulimia sufferers differ in the way that sufferers of bulimia would eat a lot of food in a short amount of time and then force themselves to throw up, when people with anorexia just don’t want to eat altogether. People with bulimia also misuse laxatives and go on strict diets of fasting and rigorous exercising. Sufferers from eating disorders in general are affected emotionally, psychologically, behaviorally, and socially. Emotional and psychological changes include increased anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, guilt, and low self esteem. Some changes in behavior of a person suffering from an eating disorder include dieting, frequent visits to the bathroom after eating, a change in fashion, and constantly checking their weight. Some social changes of a person suffering from an eating disorder may include isolation, being anti-social, avoiding social gatherings where food is involved, and a loss of interest for hobbies. Other physical signs of eating disorders in general include edema, a reduction in metabolism, sore throats, stomach problems, heartburn, and hypoglycemia; which leads to irrational thinking, shaking, confusion, irritability, and comas.
Eating disorders have a big impact on society on a small and on a large scale; meaning both individuals and society as a whole dedicate significant parts of their lives to the struggles of dealing with eating disorders. A lot of money and time go into the troubles of dealing with an eating disorder, as well as into the measures taken in order to treat and prevent them. Eating disorders are very common amongst celebrities, mainly because their profession puts pressure on them to be skinny. The majority of celebrities that we see in the media are all skinny, and most of them are anorexic or bulimic. The fans of these celebrities look at the bodies of their idols and they want to be like them. The problem with this is that anorexic and skinny celebrities do not make good role models for their fans because their skinny figures are not a healthy look to follow. Famous people believe that in order to be successful they must be skinny. This is not true. Celebrities expose their looks and body image to the media where fans can see them and get the wrong idea that their idol’s looks are acceptable when their idols are only trying to lose weight for their own “success”. In a weight article, Monica Seles stated that “Women in society have much tougher pressure to be thin.” It is like a cycle; celebrities are skinny in order to impress their fans and companies. They send their fans the wrong idea, thus making their fans lose weight. In the end, everyone has the idea that they must be thin and they must lose weight, thus, being skinny becomes the norm.
According to the article “Eating Disorders and Body Image in the Media” by Heather Mudgett, media can be very hypocritical because while the media shares news about celebrities dying from eating disorders, it also contains images of underweight celebrities modeled as if everyone should look like them. We might also see an article about a person dying from an eating disorder in a magazine, and on the next page we might see an underweight model, modeling a popular product. The underweight images of people in the media give consumers the wrong idea that being skinny is OK and that there is nothing wrong with it, when, in fact, being that skinny can lead to a person’s own death. Consumers spend so much money on products and services that will help them lose weight, such as weight loss drinks, nutrition bars, pills, laxatives, weight loss videos, and they even take weight loss classes. People also misuse drugs and liquids in order to force themselves to lose weight, and this can be very stressing to the body. Any time that we do something against our body’s natural functions, we hurt our body and put ourselves at great risk to further health problems in the future.
So many celebrities suffer and have died from eating disorders. Singer Karen Carpenter was struggling with anorexia and bulimia and after she went to treatment for years, everyone thought that she had recovered and was doing better. After that, she was found dead on the bathroom floor in her parent’s house. She had a heart attack and it was said that the result of it was because she had abused the drug Ipecac for years. Ipecac is a liquid that is used to induce vomiting, and it is often abused by anorexics and bulimics.
According to the South Carolina Department of Health, about seven million American women and one million American men have an eating disorder. About one in every two hundred women in America has anorexia, and about two or three out of one hundred women have bulimia. About half of Americans know at least one person who has an eating disorder. According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, about 5% to 10% of people diagnosed with anorexia will die within 10 years of having the disease, about 18% to 20% of people will be dead after having the disease for 20 years and only 30% to 40% of people will recover from it. It is very scary fact that the rate of mortality for people with anorexia is twelve times higher than the rate of death of all of the causes of death for females from 15 to 24 years old. (South Carolina Department of Health). Nearly 20% of the people who have anorexia will die prematurely from health problems and heart problems due to their eating disorder. About 95% of people with an eating disorder are between the ages of 12 and 25, about 50% of females between the ages of 11 and 13 see themselves as overweight, and around 80% of 13 year old’s have, at some point, tried to lose weight. It is a very sad fact that over 80% of females who have made an effort to go get treatment for their eating disorder, have not received the full treatment that they need in order to fully recover. This often leads to the disorder reoccurring and to the patients hurting their health even more. Obviously, eating disorders are really serious and they should be treated as soon as possible.
Since eating disorders are such important problems facing society today, researchers have used psychological theories to try to solve these problems including group therapy, medical treatment, and nutritional counseling. Eating disorders are treatable, and a person who has an eating disorder does have a chance of getting better, however, if the media continues to idolize skinny celebrities and condone their extremely thin size, it will continue to aid people in trying to lose weight. Having an eating disorder is like a really bad habit that needs to be stopped. A lot of people do not have the ability to stop this bad habit on their own, thus they need help from professional doctors and even family. There are several different methods used to treat an eating disorder. Since an eating disorder affects individuals both physically and psychologically, the treatment for an eating disorder has to satisfy both the physical and psychological aspect of the disorder. Medicine alone wont help a patient get better. In order to get positive long term effects from the treatment, a patient has to receive a mix of medical and psychological help for their disorder. Some therapies that psychologists use to determine the problem and treatment of an eating disorder are cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy, rational emotive therapy, and psychoanalytic psychotherapy.
Cognitive behavioral therapy allows psychologists to see the patient’s thought process, interpersonal therapy involves dealing with difficult relationships with others, rational emotive therapy involves studying a patient’s unhelpful beliefs, and psychoanalytic psychotherapy involves looking at a person’s past experiences. All of this information can help a psychologist find the problem, and come up with the solution to the problem. Group therapy is a helpful part of treatment that allows sufferers of the similar eating disorders get together to discuss their problem. Groups are able to discuss coping strategies, ask and answer questions, and talk about ways to change their behavior. Medical treatment is necessary in order to make sure that the patient receives full treatment. Drugs such as anti-depressants can be prescribed by an experienced doctor who knows your condition in order to help treat your illness. Nutritional counseling is another effective and good way to help treat eating disorders. Dieticians and nutritionists can help patients understand what a well-balanced diet is and what foods they should eat on a daily basis. Nutritional counseling can also help patients face their fears about food and get over their fears of being afraid to eat.
A lot of people are confused about what “normal eating” is so they need nutritional counseling to help them get back on track. Not that many people who suffer from an eating disorder go to get treated for it. According to the South Carolina Department of Health , only 1 out of 10 people who suffer from an eating disorder go to get treatment. The cost of treatment for an outpatient is very expensive. Costs for outpatient treatment can be over $100,000. In the US, the cost of treatment for an eating disorder per day is anywhere from $500 to $2,000. On average, a person in inpatient treatment has to pay $30,000 a month. People with eating disorders need approximately 3-6 months of inpatient care in order to recover. The cost of treatment for an eating disorder is ridiculously high, and the high costs might be a reason that people do not go to get treated. It is very hard for most families to pay for the treatment of their illness, especially when insurance companies don’t usually cover eating disorder costs. Another way to help reduce the number of people with eating disorders is to educate people about the dangers of eating disorders through media. The media is a good tool to help educate people on the dangers of eating disorders, but it is also a tool that hurts people by condoning the appearances of skinny people who suffer from such disorders. Another way that eating disorders can be treated and minimizes is through the “Doll Experiment”. People were shown that if a human being had the same attributes as a Barbie doll, the body would not be able to hold itself because of its awkward shape and structure. This is a good way to show people that a Barbie doll isn’t necessarily what women today should aim towards looking like. In the same way, the celebrities we see on TV are not people who we should try to look like either.
I believe that as long as the media continues to idolize thin celebrities, the effects of education about the dangers of eating disorders through the media will not be effective. For each step that they take forward to solve the problem, they take two steps back by continuing to idolize thin celebrities. It is not a question of what effects have a greater likelihood of causing an eating disorder, but it is a fact that media does contribute to people developing and maintaining eating disorders. There are other causes of eating disorders, such as interpersonal or biological factors, but if the problem of media influencing eating disorders can be changed, there will be fewer cases of eating disorders. We have to take one step at a time in order to solve this very serious problem of eating disorders, and a great place to start is to change the fact that media influences eating disorders. There is not one cause of eating disorders, but media is a big influence to them since media reaches so many people. Personally, I think that group therapy very helpful in the treatment process of an eating disorder. Victims of an eating disorder are able to ask questions and receive answers in order to better understand their situation.
This is very helpful and it might make the victims of eating disorders feel more comfortable knowing that there are other people out there who are going through the same thing. Unfortunately, people are put under so much pressure to be thin by watching skinny celebrities all over the media be idolized. If they are being idolized does that means that they are good role models and their behaviors should be followed? No, most of the time, celebrities are not good role models. I believe that early childhood education is very important because I think that eating disorders start at an early age when children are naive and susceptible to being changed by others. Educating young kids about the media and how to criticize media is a very important step to reducing the number of people with eating disorders. Since media has such a big influence on eating disorders, children should be able to effectively criticize it and not fall victim to its schemes.
Personally, I don’t think that the media will ever be an effective resource for people to learn the truth and to learn about eating disorders. The media spreads a lot of false information and people tend to misinterpret the messages they hear on TV. Companies try to sell us products that will reduce our weight and make ourselves look “beautiful” by spending millions of dollars on advertisements. Consumers spend a lot of money and time trying to lose weight and buying these products that are not what the body needs. I believe that our bodies know what they need and ever one’s body is different. Everyone has a different metabolism and shape, and we have to learn how to love ourselves for who we are. We need to teach children at a young age that what they say on TV is not what it is cracked up to be and that they need to have self confidence, because if they don’t create an image for themselves, the media will do it for them.
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