Anorexia in Society
In society today, we have been led to develop false ideas of what is true beauty. Television, magazines, books and songs have a great influence our minds especially the minds of younger women and men alike. The problem with girls, however, is greater because what has become the image of perfection is nearly unattainable. Girls everyday are exposed to these false portrayals of beauty in the media. They see this and they want to fit in with what they feel is the way to be. So they turn to drastic measures to attain this “beauty”.
Their thinking and vision is become completely skewed and they start to believe in what they see and may never be satisfied with what they perceive in themselves. This leads to self-esteem issues and in the worst cases, anorexia. Anorexia nervosa is the medical term for one of the most common types of eating disorders. People who have anorexia have a severe fear of gaining weight. They critically limit the amount of food they eat and can eventually become dangerously thin. Anorexia affects one’s body and mind. All one thinks about is food, dieting, working out, and their weight all the time. You begin to have a distorted body image.
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People may say you are too skinny, but when you look into the mirror, you see yourself as an elephant. Professor Walter Kaye, M. D. , of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine says, “When they are ill, people with anorexia nervosa don’t seek or respond to the kinds of comforts and pleasures most of us enjoy, including food. They also resist and ignore feedback that signifies their precarious state of health. They don’t see an emaciated figure in the mirror, they ignore the most obvious warning signs and dismiss comments from loved ones that suggest they are seriously and medically ill.
People with anorexia nervosa have extreme self-denial, not only of food, but often of many comforts and pleasures in life. Yet people with anorexia nervosa can be very energetic and productive. ” According to a study led by Dr. Walter Kaye at the university, it was found that a possible reason that those with anorexia are driven to be extremely thin and seem oblivious to the gravity of their illness could be due to an over activity of dopamine receptors in the brain.
Dopamine affects the brain’s systems that control movement, emotional response, and ability to experience pleasure and pain. So people who suffer with anorexia just disregard what other’s tell them and only take what they see to be true. Throughout history the perfect woman’s body has always been embodied as thin and beautiful. But it’s the definition of thin and beautiful that has changed over the years. The Barbie doll, for example, since its debut has been a symbol of the perfect female form in the minds of many young girls.
But how realistic it would be for people to use the Barbie as a benchmark for the perfect body? If the Barbie doll were put into human form, it is said that she would be six feet tall and weigh 101 pounds! So this misleading image is shown to girls at very young ages and by using such a model, it is easy to see how a young girl would feel the pressure to have such body form and could obsess over her weight. The media presents us with unrealistic body types encouraging people, especially girls, to look like them.
From magazines in supermarkets full of beautiful women, to TV commercials featuring thin, tall women, the media is everywhere portraying images of unhealthy body types for girls to look up to. What girls do not realize is that these women they see aren’t all real. Many of these images they see have been edited and airbrushed to give the illusion of flawless skin or a sculpted body. So what causes anorexia? This illness comes about differently for everyone. Anorexia results from various factors. Whether this is physical or psychological is still unknown to researchers.
There are many other reasons why one could become anorexic other than by being influenced by society. Anorexia could often arise along with other mental health disorders, like depression and anxiety. Distressing life changes have also been known to be a trigger for anorexia such as a death, being a teenager, getting into a new school, or ending a relationship. Some people cope by eating and others like anorexics “punish” themselves by starving. Anorexics tend to blame themselves for problems in their lives.
However, positive comments towards weight loss from friends or family members may strengthen their desire to continue losing weight. Automatically without realizing many girls internalize these standards of perfection and begin to obsess over achieving them. They have thoughts that are illogical and unrealistic, and almost bargain with themselves about their body image. For example, they may tell themselves, “If I lose just 10 pounds, I’ll feel better about myself. ” Although anyone at some point may find themselves saying that but it that doesn’t make them anorexic.
The difference with actual anorexic people is that they already don’t have 10 pounds to lose but it still becomes an obsession to reach this goal. They will plan their day around it and contemplate about it all the time. They become so absorbed with their weight that they think of nothing else. But no matter how much weight they lose, the reflection that they see in the mirror is still not good enough in their minds. They completely lose the ability to see reality accurately. Instead, they become trapped in an alternate reality that no one else can see and where no one understands them.
People with anorexia are often perfectionists who are overly critical of themselves and have obsessive-compulsive tendencies. They are also very good at hiding their problem to the world just not to hear someone complain. In my high school there was a girl who clearly had developed a problem. She was always known to be on the chunkier side but never obese. Once she got a boyfriend, things changed fast. She became obsessed with working out and suddenly became a vegetarian. Within months you saw the extreme change in her weight and appearance.
She began to wear baggy sweaters and clothes to hide her disappearing body. She would bake cupcakes and brownies for people but never eat any of it. You would see her drinking water all day long and just pick at a pizza she’d never finish at lunch. It seemed like her plan was to just fill up on water to eat less. She used to have a nice young looking round face, and now her face is so dry looking her cheekbones and chin are so pronounced it makes her appear so much older. She would always say “I need to lose 5 more pounds”. She was so scared of going back to how she used to be.
Evidence suggests that abnormalities in the hypothalamus region of the brain may affect one’s perception of appetite, feeling hunger, and fullness. Genetically though, people with close relatives who also have anorexia are far more likely to develop anorexia as well. A study at Maudsley Hospital in London shows that anorexics are more likely to have a gene deviation in the brain’s serotonin receptors, which makes a connection between serotonin and anorexia. Serotonin is another chemical in the brain that plays a major role in managing emotions.
Serotonin level inconsistencies are also a cause in impulse control, sleep patterns, depression, anger, anxiety, and hunger awareness. Serotonin imbalances are usually linked with depression and anxiety which is often found along with anorexia. The inherited variation in serotonin receptors found in anorexics may cause them to have serious imbalances in levels of serotonin. High levels of serotonin can lead to health disorders such as anxiety, however, serotonin decreases without food because the body needs certain amino acids to produce serotonin.
So as malnourishment reduces serotonin one may fall in depression. But once the anorexic person starts to eat, serotonin levels begin to rise again. The rise in serotonin may trigger anxiety symptoms, and then the anxiety plays into making them not eat again. This causes a vicious cycle in people with anorexia. Eventually, the anorexic subconsciously learns to avoid anxiety by not eating which leads to low serotonin levels and makes them fall into depression again. The enduring effects of anorexia on the body and mind can be harsh.
Alcohol and drug abuse are increasingly common in people with anorexia. Sadly, half of the deaths in cases of anorexia have been because of suicide. Brain scans show that the brain is subject to undergo structural changes and abnormal activity during anorexia. Researchers believe that these alterations result in changes in thought processes, seizures, and strange nerve sensations such as numbness and tingling. It is unknown whether these brain changes can be reversed. For women who had or have anorexia tend to have anemia, develop heart disease, and may find it more difficult to become pregnant.
There is also a possibility of developing osteoporosis later on in life, which is a disease where one’s bones become extremely weak and brittle. At the moment, there is no exact treatment for anorexia that is completely effective. According to University of Maryland Medical Center research, recovery rates fluctuate between 23 to 50 percent, and relapses vary from 4 to 27 percent. It takes an average of 5 to 6 years to recover and up to 30 percent do not recover at all. It is sad what society has led many people to.
The media isn’t all to blame but it is a major contributing factor to this issue plaguing the youth. Many have addressed the issue such as some celebrities like Oprah Winphrey, Ellen DeGeneres, and Tyra Banks who have once refused to be edited on magazine covers to show what difference editing and airbrushing makes. Nonetheless, this will continue to be a problem with those who are vulnerable because of self esteem issues. More should be done in society to show more acceptance towards all body types.