Why are eating disorders the greatest killers among the many different psychological disorders? This is because of the media, as well as the disorder’s dramatic and deadly affects on the body. Today, media is in our lives no matter where we go. From television, radio, and the news, to magazines, newspapers, and the internet, media plays a big role in the spreading ideas, norms, and styles to people. Media spreads information really quickly to millions of people. Media is around people no matter where they turn, and they face it on a daily basis in some form. So, how is media related to eating disorders? This question, and many other questions, will be answered after we get a better understanding of what an eating disorder is, its characteristics, statistics, and ways to prevent and treat it. I will, however, focus only on anorexia and bulimia because they are more affected by the media than overeating disorders are.People with eating disorders obsess about their intake of food, and they spend a lot of time thinking about their weight and body image. Their body is badly affected both emotionally and physically. People with an eating disorder may suffer from a number of different symptoms, and not everyone gets the same symptoms as they vary from individual to individual. According to the Help Guide-Mental Health Issues, even though anorexia is the most revealed eating disorder in the media, bulimia is the most prevalent eating disorder.
A person suffering from bulimia can get the same effects as a person suffering from anorexia since both disorders involve the loss of major and rapid weight, which leads to very unhealthy changes in the body. Symptoms between anorexia and bulimia sufferers differ in the way that sufferers of bulimia would eat a lot of food in a short amount of time and then force themselves to throw up, when people with anorexia just don’t want to eat altogether. People with bulimia also misuse laxatives and go on strict diets of fasting and rigorous exercising. Sufferers from eating disorders in general are affected emotionally, psychologically, behaviorally, and socially. Emotional and psychological changes include increased anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, guilt, and low self esteem. Some changes in behavior of a person suffering from an eating disorder include dieting, frequent visits to the bathroom after eating, a change in fashion, and constantly checking their weight. Some social changes of a person suffering from an eating disorder may include isolation, being anti-social, avoiding social gatherings where food is involved, and a loss of interest for hobbies. Other physical signs of eating disorders in general include edema, a reduction in metabolism, sore throats, stomach problems, heartburn, and hypoglycemia; which leads to irrational thinking, shaking, confusion, irritability, and comas.
“The holiday season is always the most difficult time of year in dealing with my eating disorder. Holidays, in my family, tend to center around food. The combination of dealing with the anxiety of being around family and the focus on food tends to be a huge trigger for me to easily fall into my eating disorder behaviors. I need to rely on outside support to best cope with the stresses of the holidays.” -Twenty-one-year-old woman
There is no need and there is no good time to feel guilty or at fault for your loved one’s eating disorder. The Holidays are especially not the time. Eating disorders are complex illnesses that are not caused by one person or one relationship. It is also important for the eating disordered person not to feel responsible for their family and friend’s emotional response to the eating disorder. One helpful agreement around the holiday season is, “We will spend time focusing on the need for nourishment as previously agreed upon, and primarily, we will spend time focusing on each other and the things that are available and that are meaningful in our family or social setting.” Let them know that you can look beyond the outward manifestations of the eating disorder because you are also concerned about the hurt, pain, fear, and guilt they are feeling inside. In acknowledging the pain inside, no one has to be at fault or to blame for the eating disorder, allowing positive family associations and caring to become the emphasis. There is no need to “walk on egg shells”, especially when everyone understands and acknowledges the underlying needs associated with the eating disorder. Compassion is a wonderful holiday gift for someone with an eating disorder.
So many celebrities suffer and have died from eating disorders. Singer Karen Carpenter was struggling with anorexia and bulimia and after she went to treatment for years, everyone thought that she had recovered and was doing better. After that, she was found dead on the bathroom floor in her parent’s house. She had a heart attack and it was said that the result of it was because she had abused the drug Ipecac for years. Ipecac is a liquid that is used to induce vomiting, and it is often abused by anorexics and bulimics.
Cognitive behavioral therapy allows psychologists to see the patient’s thought process, interpersonal therapy involves dealing with difficult relationships with others, rational emotive therapy involves studying a patient’s unhelpful beliefs, and psychoanalytic psychotherapy involves looking at a person’s past experiences. All of this information can help a psychologist find the problem, and come up with the solution to the problem. Group therapy is a helpful part of treatment that allows sufferers of the similar eating disorders get together to discuss their problem. Groups are able to discuss coping strategies, ask and answer questions, and talk about ways to change their behavior. Medical treatment is necessary in order to make sure that the patient receives full treatment. Drugs such as anti-depressants can be prescribed by an experienced doctor who knows your condition in order to help treat your illness. Nutritional counseling is another effective and good way to help treat eating disorders. Dieticians and nutritionists can help patients understand what a well-balanced diet is and what foods they should eat on a daily basis. Nutritional counseling can also help patients face their fears about food and get over their fears of being afraid to eat.
The importance of these quotes from clients in treatment for anorexia is found in their honest expression of the tremendous pressure and conflict they feel inside in response to the normal food and social activities of the season. Their internal suffering and pain are often hidden from those around them by their continual remarks about “being fat,” or may also be hidden in their patterns of avoidance and withdrawal from social involvements.”The secrecy and lying make it very difficult for me during the holiday season. I have to decide whether to restrict my food or to binge and then sneak away to purge.” -Twenty-two-year-old-woman.”Having an eating disorder during the holidays presents quite a contradiction in my mind. I anticipate all the food and get excited, while at the same time I dread the many family members around. I feel that the family is over to “watch”. I know that they simply want to reach out and help, but I feel that a big help would be to make a concerted effort to shift the holiday focus from the food to the underlying purpose. I wish the food could be a minor deal, just an accessory to the holiday, rather than the focus.” -Twenty-year-old woman
It is not your job to fix or solve the eating disorder. It is your job to encourage nourishment of the body and provide nourishment to the soul. Working too hard to stop the eating disorder behaviors during the holidays can fuel dishonesty and defensiveness which actually feeds the problem. You are not responsible to say or do everything right. Nothing you do or not do will take away your friend or family member’s own responsibility to overcome and recover from their eating disorder. She/he is the only one who can do that job, but you can care, empathize, encourage, and share the process with them. The good intent you express is often more helpful than what is actually said or done. If your friend or family member knows that your heart is on their side, then you become a source of comfort, support, and safety to them.These general holiday suggestions by patients and professionals are not a complete list, but they do emphasize some positive approaches to help and support someone suffering with an eating disorder. The specific ideas, strategies, and agreements that can come out of your interactions with your loved one before and during the holidays will allow these ideas to be personalized and unique for each situation. Remember also, that the person struggling with the eating disorder has her own list of positive things that she can do to help her through the holiday season as well. We hope this article is helpful in better understanding the significant and difficult ordeal those who suffer from eating disorders will face at this season of the year. We hope this awareness and understanding will help us identify the best gifts of the holidays for those we love and care so much about at this time of year.
Personally, I don’t think that the media will ever be an effective resource for people to learn the truth and to learn about eating disorders. The media spreads a lot of false information and people tend to misinterpret the messages they hear on TV. Companies try to sell us products that will reduce our weight and make ourselves look “beautiful” by spending millions of dollars on advertisements. Consumers spend a lot of money and time trying to lose weight and buying these products that are not what the body needs. I believe that our bodies know what they need and ever one’s body is different. Everyone has a different metabolism and shape, and we have to learn how to love ourselves for who we are. We need to teach children at a young age that what they say on TV is not what it is cracked up to be and that they need to have self confidence, because if they don’t create an image for themselves, the media will do it for them.
Eating Disorder Recovery Tips
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