Is The Media Really To Blame?

The media often portrays anorexia and bulimia as part of vanity, an obsession with beauty, or an aspiration to be fashionable. While all these may trigger an eating disorder, environmental factors are actually far less to blame than people think.

A study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry found that about 60% of a parson’s risk for developing anorexia was due to genetic factors and that environmental influences were far less to blame than previously thought. A 2005 follow-up study found that only 5% of a person’s risk came from the environment and media, such as the overly-thin fashion industry.

Eating disorders are mostly psychological

There is a lot of evidence that eating disorders are psychological, a form of obsessive compulsive disorder, and have existed long before the fashion industry became obsessed with thinness. The ancient Romans would vomit during feasts to indulge in an outrageous amount of food, and in modern times anorexia has been reported in rural Africa and Amish communities, which are not exposed to the media pressures that overemphasize thinness.

In addition, if environmental factors were mostly to blame, then why does only a small portion of those exposed to the media develop eating disorders? There is something purely psychological in origin that causes some people to obsess over their weight more than others.

Eating disorders don’t discriminate

Eating disorders are often thought of as diseases of white, upper-class, young women. In reality, eating disorders show up in men, older women, and people of all races. It is important to change the stigma of eating disorders in order to provide proper treatment to patients who don’t fit the stereotypical anorexic or bulimic person.

Anorexia and bulimia are fueled by anxiety and depression, and though they can be made worse by the fashion industry and media, there are many other causes. As we discover more diverse causes of eating disorders, we can figure out better treatments for patients.

Eating Disorder Self Test. Take the EAT-26 self test to see if you might have eating disorder symptoms that might require professional evaluation. All answers are confidential.

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