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Teens With Eathing Disorders Essay, Research Paper

Teens With Eating Disorders

In our society today, we are constantly hearing about more and more teenagers, mostly girls, who are suffering from an eating disorder. For reasons that are unclear, these young women are developing potentially life-threatening eating disorders as a way of achieving that perfect model body. There are many different types and classifications of eating disorders, but the two most common ones in which teens suffer from and are diagnosed with are called bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa.

People with bulimia, known as bulimics, indulge in bingeing, which are episodes of eating large amounts of food to satisfy their hunger and craving for food. Then there is purging, this happens after bingeing and it is a means of getting rid of the food by vomiting or using laxatives.

Anorexia Nervosa is a disorder in which preoccupation with dieting and thinness leads to excessive weight loss. Anorexics have an intense fear of fat.(American Anorexia Bulimia Association, INC). People with anorexia, whom doctors sometimes call anorectics, severely limit their food intake. About half of them also have bulimia symptoms. A lot of the time a person suffering from anorexia doesn’t realize that they have an eating problem, they are more concerned with their image than food.

In this report I want to primarily focus on teens with eating disorders and why they have resorted to this way of life. There are a lot of unclear reasoning of why people are inflicting pain, in a sense, upon themselves, but it mostly has to do with these teens self image and confidence, and the dire need to like one of those magazine models. To them thin=pretty+happiness.

First, I researched and found to some degree why these teens are doing this and got some updated stats on roughly how many teens these two diseases are affecting, if not killing, a year. Finally, I wanted to possibly find alternatives, or other ways that teens can solve and beat these problems in which they are facing. The direction that I took or supported with this paper is anti-eating disorder, but moreover I am supporting treatment and awareness programs.

The main reason that I am personally interested in this topic is because right now as a Social Work major, my intentions are to help and work with teens with eating disorders once I graduate. I know what it is like and how these teens feel, and the torment that they deal with and agonize over everyday in attempt to live up to society’s expectations. I hope that maybe I can help these teens take a healthy approach to losing weight, or maybe first maybe just try to raise their confidence and morals.

Eating disorders are diseases that take a toll on a number of peoples lives currently as well as in the past. In the United States approximately 10% of girls and women suffer from anorexia and bulimia. Anorexia and Bulimia are only two types of eating disorders that combined affect an estimated 11 million people every year(Mintle, 2000). At least 50,000 of those 11 million people will die as result of their eating disorder. In the most extreme cases the suffers literally starve themselves to death or burn up their esophagus. Those who survive are at greater risk of developing brittle bones, life-threatening infections, kidney damage and heart problems (What Causes Eating Disorders?, 2001).

Fortunately, doctors have learned a lot over the past decade about what causes eating disorders and how to treat them. There is no single cause for eating disorders. (What Causes Eating Disorders?, 2001) A number of factors, including cultural and family pressures, chemical imbalances, psychological, physical and emotional and personality disorders all together produce both anorexia and bulimia. Researchers have also suggested that genetics may also contributed to the development of eating disorders (What Causes Eating Disorders?, 2001). Females who having a history of eating disorders in their families have a risk of developing anorexia or bulimia that is 11 times higher than a woman who doesn’t (Genetics of a Eating Disorder). According to a recent study that was conducted anywhere from 50 to 90% of the risk of developing anorexia is said to be genetic, and as for bulimia genetics is the cause of about 35% to 83% of the cases (Genetics of a Eating Disorders).

While eating disorders claim lives and significantly impact the health of many people, an amazing 80% of women, especially women in college, are dissatisfied with their appearance (Healthy Weight Journal, 1998). Even though it seems it has been just recently that eating disorders have gotten a lot of publicity and media attention they are not a new fad or diet method that teens are turning too.

Anorexia has its roots as far back as the 13th century(Kuehnel, 2000). Back then what we now consider an eating disorder was then only an important part of their religious practices and beliefs. Women honored their saints by actually fasting. Back then, these women were often referred to as “holy anorexics.”(Kuehnel, 2000). Researchers suspect that eating disorders probably occurred in other societies for different reasons than in our own.

Doctors and researchers knew of anorexia long before they knew of or even acknowledged Bulimia. In the 1870 anorexia started to get a lot of publicity as a result from Sir Williams Gull. In his time many people thought that purposefully starving ones self was linked to other diseases like Diabetes or Tuberculosis (History of Eating Disorders, 2000). It was also Gall who brought it to the publics’ attention that self starving was its own separate illness and he was also responsible for giving this disease its name anorexia, which means nervous loss of appetite(History of Eating Disorders,2000). Even though Gull had brought the awareness of anorexia to the attention of the people of his time not a whole lot else was discovered or said about the illness until the 19th century, when doctors came to the conclusion that it was a psychological illness (History of Eating Disorders, 2000).

It was during the 1970’s that Anorexia Nervosa became more widely known. In past, physicians were familiar with eating disorders in medical school yet they rarely had to deal with any of these cases in their practices (History of Eating Disorders, 2000). During the 1970’s the general public was still unaware of the impact that eating disorders were having on many people (History of Eating Disorders, 2000).

Prior to the 1970’s little was known about Bulimia, even to doctors and psychiatrists. Bingeing and purging, Bulimia, was first linked to stages of Anorexia. It wasn’t until the mid 1970’s that Bulimia was categorized and seen as a completely different illness than Anorexia (History of Eating Disorders, 2000). In 1979, an English psychiatrist from London, Dr. Gerald Russell was the first to name the disorder Bulimia Nervosa. He described Bulimia by noting “the patient suffers from powerful urges to overeat; the patient seeks to avoid getting fat as a result of eating the food by making themselves vomit. These patients suffering from Bulimia have great fear of becoming obese” (History of Eating Disorders, 2000).

In the early 1980’s, the public became more aware of eating disorders when popular singer Karen Carpenter’s died due to Anorexia. Carpenter died at a very young age due to heart failure caused by chronic anorexia nervosa(History of Eating Disorders, 2000). Before the 80’s eating disorders among women had been the subject that researchers were concentrating on. But in the past fifteen to twenty years, the researchers and medical personnel have begun to acknowledge and address the existence of eating disorders in males( Killea, 2000). Approximately 10% of people diagnosed by medical professionals as having an eating disordered are male, numbering close to a million men a year(Shiltz).

Today the number of eating disorder cases continues to grow. In fact in recent years there has been a steady growth in the number of cases of eating disorders reported, from 8.1 people per 1,000 to 10.3 people per 1,000 (Healthy Weight Journal, 1998). One percent of teenage girls in the U.S. will develop an eating disorder and up to 10% of those may die as a result (American Anorexia Bulimia Association, INC).

So even though we now know a lot more about eating disorders, this currently isn’t preventing people from developing one or lowering the number of cases that are reported. Also recently, during the 1990’s well known celebrity Richard Simmons came forward about his struggles with an eating disorder. (History of Eating Disorders, 2000).

In a recent poll by People magazine 80% of women reported that the images of women of TV and in movies, fashion magazines ad advertising makes them feel insecure about the way they look. In addition, the poll indicated that women are made to feel so insecure that they are willing to try unsafe fad diets and 93% indicated they had made various and repeated attempts to lose weight in attempt to look more like the women that the media is portraying (Healthy Weight Journal, 1998). These college women that view the pictures that are illustrated in magazines and so forth have a tendency to rate themelves lower, as well as, causing numerous other unhealthy feelings. Like for instances they increase depression, stress, guilt, shame, insecurity and body dissatisfaction (Healthy Weight Journal, 1998).

There is currently a lot of confusion in our society about eating disorders and what we should done in regards to them. Nobody can positively say what causes eating disorders, but there are a lot of possible factors that can play a role in developing one. But one thing is for sure they are a very complex circumstances that occur because of many different reasons(Guillen & Barr, 1994). People are realizing that these disorders are having a dramatic impact on many young teens lives, but yet there is no clear-cut way to solve them. There is also a lot of controversy where eating disorders are concerned and many questions that need to be answered. Some questions that are the topic of discussion for many people are for instance: Can eating disorders be prevented and how can we try to prevent them, and how effective are these prevention methods? (Anderson, 2000). However, there are a lot of potential ideas that have been recently brought up in regards to what researchers and doctors think and feel the best ways to approach this these situations.

The first method that medical personnel think will help the curve, if not slowly decrease, the number of eating disorders cases, is for everybody, not just the suffers or the people who deliver the help, to learn more about anorexia and bulimia to get a better knowledge center foundation (Levine & Smolak, 2000). As quoted by two mental doctors, “Genuine awareness will help us avoid judgmental or mistaken attitudes about food, weight, body shape, and eating disorders (Levine & Smolak, 2000). Enhancing the public awareness is the first step in right direction (Eating Disorder Awareness Week, 2000).

By becoming more educated people discover the hidden facts and the truth behind many of the causes that eventually lead to eating disorders. First of all in this education process the number one step is to encourage healthy eating and living. (Berzins,2000). Secondly, it is also important people to realize that it is OK to be different, that people all come a wide range of shapes and sizes, but that is what makes us all unique (Berzins, 2000). Fad diets are certainly one myth that teens tend to believe and try, in attempt to make them “thin” (Berzins, 2000).

What the main problem is with trying to communicate, as well as educate, our society is that we are getting no help from the media, in fact, they are a deadly contributor that leads to eating disorders(Zinn). We need to start regulating, or thus changing the way, the media advertises, because many young children are getting brain washed by all the emphasis that they are putting on being thin (Berzins, 2000). In essence, what researcher are trying to suggest is that by constantly showing slender women and people with perfect bodies, our youth are starting to believe that this is the way that they are suppose to be, when actually a healthy average woman is 5′4″ and weights 140 pounds and the average model is 5′11″ and weighs 117 pounds so most fashion models are thinners than 98% of American women. (What Causes Eating Disorders?, 2001).

In a few studies conducted it showed that in the in many teen magazines, the majority of the articles published in them had to do with weight loss will improved appearance in the long run (The Media, Body Image & Eating Disorders, 1997). Another study revealed that on an average 1 out of every 3.8 commercials were directed towards body image and attractiveness (The Media, Body Image & Eating Disorders, 1997). And just to prove that teens and even young children are hearing these media messages, one devastating fact is that “42% of 1st-3rd grade girls claimed that they wished they were thinner and wanted to diet” (Collins, 1991). One thing that everybody needs to keep in mind is that diets rarely work and if for some chance it does you will more than likely gain the weight back within a few years. Also what people who want to lose weight need to keep in mind is that, it isn’t really dieting that is so bad and unhealthy, rather the type of dieting they choose. Regular exercise and maintaining a balance diet is a healthy safe way to keep in shape. On the other hand these crash diets that cut out all the crucial proteins and vitamins in your diet are the ones that are endangering our youth’s well-being.

In answer to the media problem researches suggest a couple things. First, one important thing we need to do is “Encourage the media to present more diverse and real images of people with positive message about health and self esteem” (The Media, Body Image & Eating Disorders,1997). This will in no way completely solve the eating disorder epidemic, but might in a sense take some of the pressure off teens about the feeling to need to be thin.

A second way that researchers are proposing to our society about eating disorders is strictly prevention. In doing this there are a few things to keep in mind and to follow. One, develop or improve family communication skills(LQS Programs). We need to be able to teach our children the danger that lie in fad diets that lead to eating disorders, and to encourage them maintain a healthy diet and exercise plan (Levine & Smolak, 2000).

There are currently many organizations that have evolved in hopes to help prevent eating disorders, and to get out information to the public on how severe eating disorders really are. Nationally, there is the American Anorexia Bulimia Association, The National Eating Disorders Screening Programs, The Eating Disorders Awareness and Prevention, Inc. Atop of the few of these I just mentioned, there are many more nationally as well as local community organizations.

I personally think that education and prevention are interlinked. Both techniques are definitely needed if we want to bring about any changes in hope to decrease eating disorders. We can’t have one without the other, or try promoting one without somehow tying in the other. I know that we won’t ever completely find and cure that will stop the development of eating disorders, but as a society I think that it is our responsibility to educate and become more educated on this issue so that to some degree prevention will take place.

Work Cited

Ambrosino, Robert & Rosalie. Social Work and Social Welfare, Fourth Edition. 2001.

American Anorexia Bulimia Association, INC. 2000. http://www.aabainc.org/

Anderson, Arnold. 1999. Preventing Eating Disorder. http://archpedi.ama-assn.org/issues/v154n6/ffull/pbk0600-2.html

Berzins, Lisa. 2000. http://www.apa.org/ppo/lisa.html

Collins. 1991. Know Dieting: Risks and Reasons to Stop. http://www.edap.org.nodiet.html

Eating Disorder awareness Week, 2000. http://www.edap.org/edaw/EDAWDescription.html

Guillen & Barr. (1994). Journal of Adolescent Health, 15, 464-472.

Farley, Dixie. Eating Disorders Require Medical Attention. September 1997. http://vm.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/fdeatdis.html

Fradin, Debrah. Eating Disorders: Definitions. July 26, 1996. http://www.mirror-mirror.org/def.htm

Genetics of Eating Disorders. 2001. http://my.webmd.com/content/article/3204.673

Healthy Weight Journal 1998:12:3;35 / Efron S. Eating disorders in Asia. Los Angeles Times October 21, 1997)

History of Eating Sept. 2000 Disorders.http://eating_disorders.org/history.htm

Killea, Anita. The Eating Disordered Male:A Social Comparison Perspective. http://www.wcsu.edu/~wiss/400/killea.htm

Kuehnel, Deborah. Eating Disorders. Aug. 1998. http://wwwaddictions.net/info.htm

Levine & Smolak. 2000. 10 Things Parents Can Do to Help Prevent Eating Disorders. http://www.edap.org/10things.html

LQS Programs, 2000. http://laquesabe.com/lqswww/Programs.htm

The Media, Body Image, and Eating Disorders. 1997

Mintle, Linda Ph.D. Risk Factors of Eating Disorders. 2000. http://admin.christianity.com

Shiltz, Tom. Men and Eating Disorders: The Latest Facts. http://www.edap.org/men.html

What Causes Eating Disorders? 2001. http://webmd.lycos.com/content/article/1680.50413

Zastrow, Charles. Understanding Human Behavior and the Social Environment, Fifth Edition. 2001, pg. 246-47 & 324-29.

Zinn, Janet. Dieting, could it be the problem rather than the solution? http://caringonline.com/eatdis/editorials/zinn/zinn/htm


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