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Anorexia is considered an illness from which those who suffer exhibit signs of low self-esteem and a continued need to control their emotions and surroundings. Anorexia is also considered a disorder that is mainly an unusual reaction to various internal and external conflicts that may include unhappiness, stress, anxiety, and the feeling that one’s life is exceedingly spinning out of control (Kittleson & Kramer, 2005). That being said, the disease is a very negative way for an individual to attempt to cope with such emotions. New research has indicated that anorexia could be a genetic disorder, with environmental factors catalyzing the condition’s advancement (Spettigue & Henderson, 2004). When one has the opportunity to interact with or even treat patients with anorexia, it is rather difficult not to end up blaming the media not only for causing the disorder but also for maintaining it. However, many people are exposed to the same media, yet not all develop eating disorders. Therefore, a question can be posed: What role does the media play in creating and promoting eating disorders like anorexia? An in-depth analysis of the media’s role in the above-mentioned area of life will be discussed.
Media as an enabler and etiology to anorexic tendencies
Over the years, magazines, advertisements, and television shows have created a stereotypic image of what the perfect woman should look like. This image has been getting thinner with time, to the point that it is extremely difficult for most women to keep up. Such images have created a social environment that has contributed mainly to disordered eating and body dissatisfaction in women and girls (Williams, Thomson, & McCoy, 2003). Research indicates that commercials for diet products and foods have increased in the recent past. In contrast, the body sizes for fashion models, beauty pageant contestants, and Playboy bunnies have decreased at the same time (Spettigue & Henderson, 2004). Therefore, it is safe to say that the media glorifies the slender body and emphasizes its importance, not to mention the importance of the general appearance. It is also important to note that there is a multi-billion dollar industry that relies on the emphasis of the value and importance of appearance and beauty in women (Shannon, 2007). The media has constantly engraved an image into people’s minds, one that is supposed to be acceptable in the social context. This has led many people to develop eating disorders in the bid to achieve these body forms.
The media in maintaining anorexic tendencies
Young women who exhibit body dissatisfaction, an internalization of the thin stereotype, a tendency of social comparison, and shape preoccupation are not only influenced by the media, but they also use the media more often than others (Williams et al., 2003). Research indicates that most women suffering from anorexia also record heavy media usage and even consider their reading of magazines as an addiction (Smolak & Moore, 2013). Qualitative results have also confirmed this notion. Beauty and fashion magazines, to these women, become manuals on how to achieve the desired thinness. They also support the desire to counterbalance and restrict dissonance, soliciting compliments from family and friends.
Media and the prevention and treatment of anorexia
The media has also been used to help people with anorexic tendencies. This has been done mainly by increasing awareness on media use, analyzing the intentions and content of media producers, and training people on critical thinking before engaging in activities promoted on the media (Spettigue & Henderson, 2004). These practices have shown considerable success to date.
In conclusion, the media plays a rather notable role in the commencement and sustainability of eating disorders. However, that is not the only role played by the media. The media also helps patients to recover from these conditions. People are encouraged not to follow everything they see in the media and to think critically before engaging in any activities that may be destructive to them.
Kittleson, M. J., & Kramer, G. F. (2005). The truth about eating disorders. New York, NY: Facts on File.
Shannon, J. B. (2007). Eating disorders sourcebook: Basic consumer health information about anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating, compulsive exercise, female athlete triad, and other eating disorders (2nd ed.). Detroit, MI: Omnigraphics.
Smolak, L., & Moore, R. H. (2013). The developmental psychopathology of eating disorders implications for research, prevention, and treatment. Hoboken, NJ: Taylor and Francis.
Spettigue, W., & Henderson, K. A. (2004, February 13). Eating disorders and the role of the media. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2533817/
Williams, M. S., Thomsen, S. R., & McCoy, J. K. (2003). Looking for an accurate mirror: A model for the relationship between media use and anorexia. Eating Behaviors, 4(2), 127-134.
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