Each year a million of women in America are affected by serious and sometimes life-threatening eating disorders. The most common eating disorders are bulimia and anorexia. Eating disorders occur in men and older women, but more than 90 percent of those afflicted with these diseases are adolescents and young adult women. Two to three percent of young women develop bulimia, a destructive pattern of excessive overeating, followed by vomiting or other “purging” behaviors to control their weight. In comparison, two percent of young women develop anorexia, a sickness in which one intentionally starves one’s body. The causes of these diseases are not very clear and can vary from emotional to physical reasons. Few reasons why eating disorders are a growing problem among young women, are the difficulties of going through puberty, peer pressure and stress, and the obsessive desire to have a “perfect body.” Eating disorders are serious diseases and should be treated as soon as diagnosed. Bulimia and anorexia can cause damage to vital organs such as the heart and the brain and even death.
Puberty is one the most stressful times in a women’s life. Some make the change from childhood into adolescence with only a few minor problems; others, however, may have a more difficult time handling the pressures and may develop eating disorders as a way to cope. Hormones are changing, body is developing, menstruation is around the corner and moods are swinging. Young girls seek independence and want to be treated as adults, but they are stuck in an in-between stage. All these new emotions are confusing, frightening and hard to deal with.
Teenagers are under a lot of pressure to succeed and fit in; in parallel some women may enter puberty earlier then others. Early development can lead to a tremendous amount of stress and anxiety, which can then increase the risks of developing an eating disorder. All the physical changes that are know noticeable by the others, can cause young women to be teased by their peers and be the target of cruel jokes. These girls may develop a series of complexes and reject their body image. As a result, they will begin to starve their bodies or consume large amounts of food.
Young women spend a tremendous amount of time worrying about what others think and about what society wants. They desperately try to conform to society’s unattainable “ideal” body image. To be perfect women must be measure 6 feet and weigh 100 pounds. Most young girls would rather have Cindy Crawford’s body than their own. At this time in their life, they are led to believe that only if they are thin, they will be accepted and will lead a successful life. Since many teenagers constantly buy teen or fashion magazines, the images of emaciated models appearing in those magazines only reinforce their belief that in order to be happy and accepted, they must be thin. Television shows such as Beverly Hills 90210 also lead them to believe that they must have a very slim figure. Many will do almost anything to resemble these anorexic actresses. Many teenagers need a role model and someone to look up to. Unfortunately, too many of them chose fashion models or actresses as their role models. They paste pictures of them all over their rooms, and some will even resort to dangerous methods of weight control to try to look like their idols.
Being an adolescent is not easy; it brings a lot of pressures that need to be dealt with on a daily basis. It is important for families to raise their teenagers to be proud of who they are and not to place too much importance on their appearances. By doing so, these teenagers will hopefully not submit to teen pressures and will learn to cope with stress. Society should encourage young women to do their best but should not demand them to be perfect. Young women need to understand that female beauty does not mean having a thin silhouette; personality is an equally important attribute. If they are happy with themselves and love who they are, they will be less likely to want to conform to society’s perfect body image. Remember, body image is not only how we see ourselves, it is also how we feel about what we see.