Shocking statistics show that 80 deaths among 400 new cases on eating disorder emerge every year. This is not the only alarming figure regarding this matter. Bodywhys, an organisation that supports people affected from eating disorders, states that 71.4% of young people in Ireland feel that the media and how it portrays a ‘standard body’ has a major impact on how they feel about themselves.
Jennifer Hudson, a founder member of Bodywhys and a psychotherapist treats patients starting from 18 year olds and above. Most of the patients dealing with eating disorders that come to her are between 18 to 25 years old. This is the age when you mold your character. She also claims that one of the common factors amongst her patients is any troubled aspect of their life, be it their issues at school or household. This is a very confusing age for them. Moreover, to be burdened with further stress, only makes them more confused on how to express themselves. They have this sudden urge to have a control over something. That is when they see that their eating habits can easily be controlled. Also, when you have something so universal such as social media users promoting unhealthy eating in a positive light, it only encourages people to eat less.
Recently, many motivational sites supporting eating disorders have been surfacing on the web. We can also find a lot of pictures trying to glamorise what we would otherwise call as an unhealthy body. There are many online communities that support the online movement ‘thinspiration’. Thinspiration is the act of taking inspiration by viewing the pictures of unrealistically skinny women to be like them. When the vulnerable youngsters are exposed to these self-proclaimed ‘perfection’, it is easy for them to believe than to argue because of the heavy influence all around the web. Social media in this case plays almost like a disguised peer pressure to be thin. It is ironic that when the patients start all of this they do it to prove themselves that they still have control over some things in their life. However, they end losing control over such a basic thing as eating even when you want to eat.
In this day and age, social media has been a huge part of our life. We are in touch with the world no matter what. Social media can alter the way you think, the way you behave and even your personality. Similarly, social media can play an important role when you try to decide your version of a standard body image.
This issue is much more serious than it looks. Hudson also tells us that eating disorder and particularly anorexia nervosa can lead to loss of human lives. In fact, one of her close friend lost her life while suffering from anorexia, a type of eating disorder. Eating disorder has the highest mortality rates among mental illnesses at around 20%. On the quest of trying to gain satisfaction by acquiring features like protruding bones and thighs several inches apart, anorexia patients push their body so far that even if they are cured, this disease does haunt them again in the long run.
Some of the people who preach ‘thinspiration’ do not even have an in-depth knowledge of the matter. These people and the means (social media) they use to promote pro-ana may not be the root cause of the problem but they definitely have a big hand in making this an issue that is now out of control.