Bulimia Nervosa Caused by Effects of Social Media

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Advancement in technology and proliferation of internet across the globe has significantly affected the people communicate. Evidently, social media has become one of the greatest sources of communication across the globe in the recent past. Social media communication has significantly changed the way people interacts and engage with one another especially among the youth. However, social media has been impacting negatively on the lives of the youth due to the high prevalence of eating disorders. Eating disorders are associated with high mortality rates across the world with one percent of the population dying each year because of the eating disorders (Arcelus, 2011).

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Bulimia Nervosa is one of the eating ailments that have been highly associated with high use of social media platforms (Pearson et al., 2015). The disorder is characterized by recurring incidents of binge trailed by repeated unsuitable compensatory behavior to prevent weight gain (Pearson et al., 2015). The condition leads to obsession on body shape and weight as people seek to achieve a certain desired body image. The teenagers are mostly associated with sharing of images on social media to create an impression that they want other people to see (National Centre for Eating Disorders, 2017). The craze to improve physical image has predisposed several individuals to eat disorders. Therefore, effects of social media rather than the genetic make-up of a person mostly cause Bulimia Nervosa. Media is a highly reliable source of communication that makes ideas and values desirable (National Centre for Eating Disorders, 2017). Consequently, social media plays a vital role in shaping views, changing behaviors and in defining personal identity in the society (Acadia Healthcare, 2017). Social media has played a significant role in the proliferation of the culture of thinness by successfully compelling the public that low weight sculptured body is the most ideal in the society (Stice, 2017). The ideology glorified by the social media impacted negatively on teenage girl’s self-esteem and body images. The teenagers are influenced to copy the shapes and body images of people they spend much of their time looking at on social media (National Centre for Eating Disorders, 2017). Consequently, the youth end up indulging themselves in extreme eating behaviors that increase their susceptibility to eating disorders. The eating disorders lead to low self-esteem, body dissatisfaction and negative mentalities (Stice, 2017). Social media is culpable for several negative behaviors among the youth. One of the reasons why social media has impacted negatively on youth is the increased amount of time that the youth spend on social media. Over 42% of the youth spend over fours a day on social media despite much of their time being spent in school (National Centre for Eating Disorders, 2017). Moreover, overreliance of social media as a new means of communication among the youth has led to the limited time that the youth spend socializing physically with their friends. Secondly, social media is culpable for the proliferation of fake images, which predispose the youth to body-image issues. The fake images because the youth to be stressed and depressed as they try to conform to the images being spread on social media. Stress and depression have the capacity to cause increased and frequent consumption of food among the youth (Pearson et al., 2015. However, after a prolonged period of frequent eating, a person is prompted to turn to weight control behaviors. Some analysts view social media as a platform that helps in the proliferation of information and ideas on how to live a healthy life. However, people react differently to information spread through social media. Most of the young people are the ideas of beauty standards spread through social media as opposed to the adults. The trend is set that young people should exhibit certain physical ideals such as the “bikini bridge and thigh gap” (National Centre for Eating Disorders, 2017). The social media craze among young people especially women proliferates information that calls for action to conform to the set beauty standards. Discrimination based on size and body weight lead to low self-esteem, feelings of inadequacy, perfectionist tendencies and above all lack of control (Tiller et al., 1997) Women with bulimic symptoms display elevated levels of perfectionism with increased concerns over their actions and mistakes. Failure to achieve the desired results over a particular period lead to negative emotions.

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Discrimination based on body size and weight lead to negative emotions. Negative emotions are associated with anxiety, depression, anger, and loneliness that lead to emotional eating without control (Pearson et al., 2015. Emotional eating is akin to binge eating which increases the prevalence of Bulimia Nervosa. Social media proliferate information that thinness leads to a successful life thus weighty individuals using social media experience body dissatisfaction. Weight suppressed individuals will experience psychobiological gravities toward obesity that may lead to the perseverance of BN (Bodell, & Keel, 2015). In fact, social media predispose individuals to information that encourage dieting to change body size and shape thus increasing psychobiological pressures. Additionally, high eating expectancies to achieve thinness plunge individuals into extreme eating, dieting and weight riddance behaviors (Pearson et al., 2015. According to studies, women with high level of weight suppression and BN are associated with greater binge size and longer duration of illness (Bodell, & Keel, 2015). Women are the mostly the ones who are concerned more about their body appearance in the society due to interpersonal relationships and negative self-evaluation.

Despite social media playing a momentous role in the proliferation of most of the eating syndromes, genetic disorders are said to play a phenomenal role in the proliferation. According to family studies, the incidents of eating disorders are more prevalent among relatives of women with Bulimia Nervosa (BN) and Anorexia Nervosa (AN) (Berrettini, 2004). Relatives of patients with BN and BN are 7-12 times more at risk to get a food disorder than relatives without incidents of food disorders in the family (Berrettini, 2004). However, environment and genetics play a close role in forming familial relationships. Most of the family studies have not established the connection between genetic and environmental factors and prevalence of food disorders in families with relatives with BN and AN thus undermining the role of genetics in the high prevalence of food disorders (Bodell, & Keel, 2015). However, twin studies have found a close relationship between genetic heritability and prevalence of eating disorders. The rate of BN and AN prevalence is high among twins indicating that genetic heritability plays a vital role in eating disorders (Berrettini, 2004). However, most of the cases of eating disorders are prevalent among women in the society who does not have any genetic relationships. Undeniably, women are beauty enthusiasts who will go to any length to ensure that they remain beautiful (Acadia Healthcare, 2017). The beauty craze proliferated in social media affects women and teenage girls more than any other section of the society. Consequently, more women than men are afflicted with eating disorders.

Social media has prevalence has led to increased cases of eating disorders. Despite genetic heritability playing a significant role in eating disorders, social media plays the biggest role in the prevalence of the disorders. Undeniably, both social media and genetics play a role in the occurrence of eating disorders, but social media accounts for the largest part of the cases.

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  1. Acadia Healthcare. (2017). Eating disorders and the media | media influence on eating disorders | anorexia | bulimia | eating disorders | compulsive overeating | the something fishy website on eating disorders.
  2. Arcelus, J., Mitchell, A. J., Wales, J., & Nielsen, S. (2011). Mortality rates in patients with anorexia nervosa and other eating disorders: a meta-analysis of 36 studies. Archives of General Psychiatry, 68(7), 724-731
  3. Berrettini, W. (2004). The genetics of eating disorders. Psychiatry (Edgmont), 1(3), 18-25.
  4. Bodell, L. P., & Keel, P. K. (2015). Weight suppression in bulimia nervosa: Associations with biology and behavior. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 124(4), 994-1002.
  5. National Centre for Eating Disorders. (2017). National Centre for Eating Disorders – The media & eating disorders. National centre for eating disorders.
  6. Pearson, C. M., Wonderlich, S. A., & Smith, G. T. (2015). A risk and maintenance model for bulimia nervosa: From impulsive action to compulsive behavior. Psychological review, 122(3), 516-537.
  7. Stice, E., Gau, J. M., Rohde, P., & Shaw, H. (2017). Risk factors that predict future onset of each DSM–5 eating disorder: Predictive specificity in high-risk adolescent females. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 126(1), 1-15
  8. Tiller, J. M., Sloane, G., Schmidt, U., Troop, N., Power, M., & Treasure, J. L. (1997). Social support in patients with anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. International journal of eating disorders, 21(1), 31-38.
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