The Media Dilemma of Bulimia Nervosa
The Media Dilemma of Bulimia Nervosa
October 25, 2010
The Media Dilemma of Bulimia Nervosa
A Brief Introduction to Bulimia Nervosa
Bulimia nervosa is a serious eating disorder that has many detrimental effects not only on a patient’s physical body, but also the mental well being. With the emphasis that society has placed on one’s outward appearance, especially the body shape, eating disorders are on a rise (Viken, 2002). According to Browman (1998), symptoms of bulimia were diagnosed as early as 399 BC. It has been observed that the media has contributed to the eating disorders by its effect on the cultural criteria for judging attractiveness (Zalta, 2006).Current statistics indicates that about 1,615,104 people are infected by Bulimia Nervosa in U.S.A. (WD 2010). Many women are now involving themselves in excessive exercise while others are using pills to get rid of excess weight (Mash, & Wolfe, 2005).
To eliminate this problem from the society, it is advisable for people to accept themselves the way they are and ignore what the media portrays about an ideal body form. This condition is creating an increasing number of individuals with poor physical health as well as severe emotional and mental abnormalities, a situation which can take years of therapy to remedy (Wilson, 2007). There is a need to inform the young people in our society about this disorder. Youth education on this issue will also help in changing the cultural standards of attractiveness instilled on them by the media. These measures will significantly help in solving this problem.
Bulimia Nervosa and Societal Implications
In the social psychology realm, bulimia nervosa can be found in pre-teens, teenagers and the adults both men and women. However, most of cases are reported within the realm of teenage and young adult women. When these young ladies partake in a period of binge eating (where they consume an unusually large amount of food over a short period of time) they fall victims of this disorder. To offset the effects of the excess calories, these ladies end up using shocking measures for the sake of their comfort. Keep in mind, a typical stereotype of bulimics in teenager is that these girls are abnormally thin, but not all bulimics are anorexics. In most cases, Bulimia infects those people who have average and above average weights, who are mostly affected by their body shape and weight when they are evaluating themselves. (Mash & Wolfe 2005).
The sad part is that some patients believe that this behavior is normal and even desirable (Mond, 2008). In connection to this, the media seems to encourage this behavior. Bulimic behaviors can be seen in a variety of movies such as Clueless or Miss Congeniality along with many television shows that target the teenage and young adult audiences. Through this part of the media, behaviors such as purging, excessive exercising or diet pills are passed to the society. Zalta & Keel (2006) revealed that within certain social groups, binge eating and bulimia was not only accepted, but also assisted young women in creating friendship circles with others who were inflicted with the same disorder. In some cases, this actually assists the young women to secure higher position in the sorority (Zalta & Keel, 2006).
So, in essence teens and young adults see these compensatory behaviors as an acceptable way to achieve or maintain their ideal weight. Along with media portrayal, teens contribute on behaviors such as bulimia. Eating disorders such as bulimia are seen as socially acceptable among high school and college students throughout an individual’s lifetime. (Midlansky & Nitzburg, 2008).
Another approach that the media has enticed individuals to resort to eating disorders such as bulimia is through fashion magazines. Tiggemann, Polivy and Hargreaves (2009) explained that when viewing these abnormally thin models, women often place the societal ideals at a body type that is exceedingly thin as a norm. When viewing magazines such as Elle, Vogue, and even Cosmopolitan, the models contribute in anorexia nervosa. When an individual perceives this type of appearance as what society views as beautiful and ideal, it can cause a person to resort to behaviors out of the norm to help reduce weight (Tiggerman, Polivy, & Hargreaves, 2009).
The Effects and Ramifications of Bulimia Nervosa
Although the actual term of bulimia nervosa has been just recently developed, the condition developed long ago as indicated earlier. The ramifications of this illness have detrimental effects on an individual leading to depression, lack of self esteem, and unacceptable sense of one’s body self image, etc. Bulimia can cause death, electrolyte imbalances, vitamin and iron deficiencies, esophageal irritation and the erosion of tooth enamel (Mash & Wolfe, 2005).The above discussion indicates that this condition of Bulimia Nervosa can have severe effects on the society. It is therefore important to pay attention on remedial measures.
Treatment Options Available for Patients
Diagnosing bulimia could be difficult. This is because the majority of times, this disorder is diagnosed through self – analysis. In case the patient doesn’t provide the professional with necessary information, the condition cannot be discovered unless a friend or a relative provide the practitioner with the information
In most cases, bulimia nervosa is treated on an outpatient basis with behavioral and cognitive therapies. In situations when the condition is severe, the patient may need an inpatient hospital stay although this is more expensive than outpatient treatment. When therapy does in fact help cease these behaviors, the occurrence of a relapse of this condition happens quite frequently. In such cases, patients are advised to seek counseling and outside resources to help support their transition. (Wilson, Grilo & Vitousek, 2007).
In America, along with numerous countries of the world, eating disorders is a very prevalent problem. The fact that obesity is on the rise and the portrayal of abnormally thin women as the epitome of beauty in the media has complicated the issue of Bulimia Nervosa. So, in effort to obtain what the afflicted person believes to be the perfect weight and body appearance, some individuals resort to horrifying behaviors to achieve this task. Along with anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa is one of the major disorders apparent in the self-inflicted malnutrition realm.
With a combined effort of societal awareness, the media and the medical measures can be taken to help alleviate this ongoing disorder. With a raised awareness of the ramifications that this disorder can bring to individuals through medical and detrimental psychological effects, the promotion of a healthy lifestyle and body type can be apparent to society. Through such an exercise, individuals afflicted with disorders such as bulimia nervosa can finally get the assistance they need to recover. Finally the disorder will become perverse to future generations.
Browman, M. (1998). Bulimia: From Syncope to Obsession. [Electronic Version]. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors Vol.12 (2), 1998.
Mash, E., and Wolfe, D. (2005). Abnormal Child Psychology. (3rd Edition). Belmont, CA: Thompson Wadsworth.
Midlarsky, E., & Nitzburg, G. (2008). Eating Disorders in Middle- Aged Women. [Electronic Version]. The Journal of General Psychology. Vol. 135, (4), 2008.
Mond, J., Hay, P., Rodger, B., & Owen, K. (2008). Mental health literacy and eating disorders: What do women with bulimic eating disorders think and know about bulimia nervosa and its treatment?. [Electronic Version]. Journal of Mental Health. Vol. 17 (6), 2008.. DOI 10.1080/09638230701677787
Tiggemann, M., Polivy, J. & Hargreaves, D. (2009). The Proccessing of Thin Ideals in Fashion Magazines: A Source of Social Comparison or Fantasy?. Vol. 28 (1).
Viken, R., Treat, T., Nosofsky, R., Mcfall, R., and Palmeri, T. (2002). Modeling Individual Differences in Perceptual and Attentional Processes Related to Bulimic Symptoms. [Electronic Version]. Journal of Abnormal Psychology Vol. 111(4), 2002.
WD (2010). Statistics by Country for Bulimia nervosa. http://www.wrongdiagnosis.com/b/bulimia_nervosa/stats-country.htm
Zalta, A., and Keel, P. (2006). Peer Influence on Bulimic Symptoms in College Students. [Electronic Version]. Journal of Abnormal Psychology Vol. 115 (1), 2006.