The Media vs. Women: Why Anorexia Nervosa Primarily Affects Women

I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s harder to provide treatment to patients with anorexia nervosa because they have extremely distorted viewpoints of themselves and the world around them. The beliefs that have led them to develop the disorder typically result from some external societal beauty norms – whether they derived them from the media, their parents, their friends, etc, it doesn’t matter. It is generally accepted that most mental disorders are derived from both biological and environmental stressors, e.g your home situation growing up and your genetic composition. In anorexia nervosa, it appears that the known cause is environmental. Given that the majority of people with anorexia are  from wealthy, first world countries where the ideal female shape is thinner than what it medically should be, it makes sense that nearly 90% of cases are young women, who are constantly being presented with these impossible beauty standards. Patients with an anxiety or mood disorder can go to therapy and have their perspectives about the world and themselves be changed comparatively easily since their perspectives are simply subjective and can be counteracted with methodologies and techniques that would persuade them to think otherwise. With anorexia, not only have the treatments not been studied as thoroughly, it’s hard to convince someone that gaining weight would help them when they’ve been bombarded with images of happy, socially rewarded thin people their entire lives.

It is clear that there’s a link between countries that value thin people more than less thin people and anorexia; I think that to decrease the cases of anorexia in these countries, social norms surrounding weight gain and body shape need to be turned on their heads, ripped to shreds, and be reborn.

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