Essay on Eating Disorders and the Media

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Eating Disorders and the Media

Doctors annually diagnose millions of Americans with eating disorders. Of those diagnosed, ninety percent are women. Most of these women have one of the two most common types of eating disorders: anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa (National Council on Eating Disorders, 2004). People with anorexia nervosa experience heart muscle shrinkage along with slow and irregular heartbeats and eventually heart failure. Along with their heart, their kidney, digestive system and muscles often fail them. The mortality rate of anorexia is twenty percent, which is the highest of any psychiatric disorder. People with bulimia nervosa experience erosion of their teeth, irritation and rips in their throat, stomach,
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Using this research as a basis, I held a focus group with six high school girls who watched the critically-acclaimed documentary by Jean Kilbourne entitled Still Killing Us Softly. After watching the documentary, this group of girls came to understand the harmful effects of media exposure on adolescents. This is a tremendous step in overcoming the development of eating disorders. Teaching adolescents about messages in media is different from what scholars have suggested for preventing eating disorders over the last several decades (Bennett et. al., 2001). Finally, I discuss the implications of my findings.


Scholars have continuously tried to understand why people develop eating disorders. Many have tested and proven one prerequisite for certain: having a damaging, negative, self-image (Fisher et. al., 2003; Button, Loan, Davies & Barke 1997; Cervera et. al., 2002; Thomas, James & Bachmann, 2000; O’Dea & Abraham, 2000). Other scholars have looked at how media interacts with these feelings of negative body image to produce females who harm their bodies in order to be thin (Berel & Irving, 2001; Busselle, 2001; Gettman & Roberts, 2004; Hargreaves & Tiggemann, 2003; Hendriks, 2002; Kilbourne, 2000; Leung Kwork Yan, Prendergast, & Prendergast, 2002; Posavac, Posavac, & Weigel, 2001; Slater & Tiggemann, 2004; Strice & Thompson, 2001; Thomsen, 2002).

Media conveys sociocultural pressures and ideals of

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