A Specialist Explains the Potential Root Cause of Numerous Eating Disorder Cases

A lot of unnecessary pressures in the world create a toxic society. People are hindered from being confident about themselves due to irrelevant comments others throw their way. Especially in this age of social media, everyone has been given a chance to express their thoughts, and others have taken advantage of it badly. You can’t be too skinny or fat for them — trying to be your best version has never been more difficult. When one person tries to practice body positivity, there will be that one comment that could quickly crush their self-esteem. While fat people are heavily criticized online, those with flat stomachs, toned arms, and stretch-mark-free bodies are glorified.

Photo: Unsplash/Kenny Eliason

Basically, many things that are supposed to be normal are seen as ugly by most people. It’s saddening that these toxic expectations still exist today. The younger generation is exposed to them constantly and is struggling due to an unhealthy beauty standard. They are pressured to be deemed “beautiful” by society, or else they are excluded. For this reason, many teenagers and young adults develop eating disorders to achieve the physical attributes accepted by everybody. Their minds are destroyed by the frustrations of maintaining the ideal weight. A mind at risk due to unnecessary beauty pressures can lead to the following eating disorders:

Photo: Unsplash/Oscar Nord

Aside from that, some diets that are not sustainable could cause eating disorders. People can develop a habit of labeling foods as good or bad, which destroys their relationship with food. Yes, it will aid in weight and fat loss, but it’s particularly unhealthy. Restrictive dieting can result in a binge eating disorder, mainly when you’ve suppressed your appetite and cravings for a long time. You are ruining your body by not listening to it and failing to consume the proper nutrients. It may be time to give your body what it needs rather than what the people on social media tell you.

An eating disorder specialist has explained the main culprit of the alarming issue. Dr. Max Pemberton from the Daily Mail had two things in mind: smartphones and social media. At a young age, children are permitted by their parents to own a smartphone and create an account on social media. Rather than letting them be kids, they are exposed to a world full of pressure and wrong interpretation of beauty. A 2021 survey shared that 58 percent of children ages eight to eleven have smartphones, whereas 89 percent of children from the UK alone have social media accounts.

Photo: Pexels/Karolina Grabowska

Puberty is the stage where those young ones are beginning to know themselves. It’s the phase in one’s life where the more you are exposed to one thing, the more heavily it affects your perspective on different matters. And if those children are exposed to a society that only praises skinny and muscular people, they’ll start to question themselves. If not supervised by their parents, those beliefs could easily be embedded in their minds. It’ll be the root cause of several mental disorders that could ruin their youth. Aside from that, they could pick the wrong role models to aspire to in life. Someone should explain that sometimes those photos are unrealistically edited, or they are privileged to maintain such a body.

Photo: Pexels/Andrea Piacquadio

“I worked in eating disorders for ten years, and many of my young patients told me they’d become obsessed with images they saw online, particularly things such as ‘thigh gaps’ (a space at the top of the thighs) on people’s Instagram accounts,” Dr. Pemberton wrote in his article from the Daily Mail. “Yet they entirely failed to realise that only a tiny fraction of the population naturally look like this and that many of the images had been digitally manipulated.” What’s more worrying is that it takes years to heal from an eating disorder because of the lack of treatments. Dr. Pemberton mentioned that the societal issue is not prioritized by institutions.

The eating disorder specialist explained how the IAPT contributed to the delay in acquiring treatments. Over one million people in 2012 utilized cognitive behavioral therapy — which was a success for the establishment. However, IAPT may have widened its scope in treating mental health disorders, yet only those with mild symptoms were given an appointment. Specialists have limited knowledge about various mental health conditions. “While money poured into IAPT services, waiting times for more complex cases, such as eating disorders, lengthened. In the specialist service where I worked, there was, at one point, a two-year wait for psychotherapy,” Dr. Pemberton said.

Photo: Pexels/Markus Spiske

The IAPT has done well in aiding people with mental health issues, but it needs to expand its services, especially in highly complex conditions. Many people are still struggling with eating disorders and waiting for treatments. “It is a scandal that clinicians working in services for the most unwell patients are powerless to do anything except watch as they deteriorate to the extent they need hospital admission,” he said. “There’s an 82 percent increase in teenagers below 18 years old who were hospitalized in two years. It’s an alarming increase which needs to be given sufficient attention by both institutions and family members.”

Photo: Pexels/Karolina Grabowska

For this reason, Dr. Pemberton advises parents to communicate with their children, especially during early puberty. They need to be informed of who they follow on social media and what piques their interest. Be attentive to what they are usually exposed to and carefully explain how social media could alter their views in life. “For parents who are worried their child might already be showing signs of an eating disorder, please feel emboldened to push for referrals to specialist services. If the waiting list is long, try phoning regularly to see if there are cancellations,” he wrote.

Dr. Pemberton also recommended a book that might help entitled, Getting Better Bite by Bite by Professor Janet Treasure.

Ensure that you surround your children with inspiring people, especially those who have a healthy relationship with their bodies. Do not be the parent who contributes to their developing eating disorder. Be part of their wellness and guide them to being comfortable with who they are. It’s time to end the cycle of society’s toxic beauty standards, and your children could start learning about it at home.

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