The Media's Influence on Eating Disorders
Eating disorders are mental illnesses that affect more than 7 million American women and usually develop in girls ages 12-25. The most common age for a girl to begin having an eating disorder is 17 years old (Discovery Health?). The National Eating Disorders Association states that eating disorders are conditions that arise from factors including physical, psychological, interpersonal, and social issues. Media images help define cultural definitions of beauty and attractiveness and are often acknowledged as one of the factors that contribute to the rise of eating disorders (NEDA). It is evident that the media influences teenage girls to develop eating disorders based on these reasons: the media promotes a thin and unrealistic body image, the media helps define cultural standards of attractiveness, and being exposed to these images can cause one to develop body dissatisfaction.
General risk factors for the development of an eating disorder are being a female living in a western society during adolescence or early adulthood. Some characteristics of people who develop eating disorders are low self-esteem, perfectionism, obesity, anxiety and anxiety disorders. Development of eating disorders can arise from a variety of issues besides the media including: biological, psychological or social factors, family issues, and cultural pressures.
Eating disorders and certain associated traits can run in the family. Obsessive-compulsive and sensitive-avoidant personality types are more vulnerable to eating disorders. People with a mother or sister with anorexia nervosa are twelve times more likely to develop the disease. If there is family history of any type of eating disorder, depression, substance misuse, or obesity there is risk for developing an eating disorder. Recent studies revealed a connection between biological factors associated with clinical depression and the development of anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. Undereating or overeating can activate brain chemicals that produce feelings of peace and euphoria which temporarily dispels anxiety and depression (?ANRED?). In some individuals with eating disorders certain chemicals in the brain that control hunger, appetite, and digestion have been found to be imbalance, but the exact meaning of these imbalances is still under investigation (?NEDA?).
People with eating disorders often use food to in an attempt to compensate for feelings and emotions that seem overwhelming (?NEDA?). A prevalent psychological factor for people with eating disorders is perfectionism. These people have unrealistic expectations of themselves. They lack a sense of identity and try to identify themselves by creating a socially approved and admired exterior. Other personality traits are having low self-esteem, feelings of hopelessness, loneliness, or fear of becoming fat (?ANRED?). They may develop these feelings or fears because of their...