We’ve all heard of teenage models who withhold food from themselves to stay thin, or some actresses who are bulimic because they want to stay “fit”. With over 80% of Americans watching over 3 hours of television daily, it is a common theory that television plays a significant role in the perception of body image. There is much debate on the severity of impact that media causes as it relates to eating disorders.

The National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) notes that sexually objectified images of girls and women in advertisements is shown in men’s magazines and teen magazines directed at adolescent girls – this presents an issue that often changes the way young girls view themselves. The NEDA claims that previous research has linked exposure to the “thin ideal” in mass media to body dissatisfaction, internalization, and eating disorders among women. A study conducted by researchers at England’s Durham University divided participants into 2 groups: one that was exposed to images of thin models while the other was exposed to images of larger models. Women participants were questioned after the study about their body size preferences. The researchers found that the group of women who were exposed to images of thin models increased their preferences for thinness from their pre-test to post-test. In contrast, women who were exposed to images of larger models had a decrease in preference for thinness from their pre-test to post-test.

Christopher Ferguson, professor of Psychology at Stetson University and writer for the Huffington Post, argues that while there have been some links, not enough research has been conducted to provide sufficient evidence that media is the root cause of eating disorders. A 2013 study concluded that media does not in fact have a negative impact on body dissatisfaction, eating disorder symptoms and life satisfaction; of 237 participants, 101 of these participants were reassessed during a 6 month follow up and the researchers found that peer competition was the most reinforcing factor of negative body views and eating disorder symptoms.

While there are debates regarding media’s impact on the topic surrounding eating disorders, there is no argument that eating disorders are a very serious concern.

If you have an eating disorder, take the first step towards your recovery today. Call us at 866-926-1498. New Vista Behavioral Health has several treatment centers with a home-like atmosphere; you will get the space and the support that you need to recover. Take back control over your mind, body, and spirit. Call us today for a consultation.

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