RE: New Public – Why are eating disorders still a growing problem?

Eating disorders are a serious problem among young people. Claire Long discusses the reasons why this issue is growing problem…Re New Public

An ‘eating disorder’ refers to a complex, potentially life-threatening condition which is characterised by severe disturbances in eating behaviour.

We’ve all heard about it before; bulimia, anorexia and binge eating. For the most part I would say that a lot of us have come into contact with it during our lifetime, whether it be personal or a close relative or friend. Eating disorders and muscle dysmorphia (which is more common amongst men, who focus more on building muscle mass than restricting their diet) have become more prevalent in Ireland within the last 20 years, and is still a growing problem.

Is it any wonder these mental illnesses are on the prowl when you cannot go anywhere without seeing Chris Hemsworth or Megan Fox’s buff body plastered across television screens and magazine covers, or a litany of diet advertisements flashing up on the television screen?

The average female in Ireland is a size 14, yet women’s mags typically engage size six to 10 models to represent the norm. We are over-loaded with this idea of the ‘perfect body’, both men and women. Actresses and celebrities are constantly questioned about their diets and exercise routines and everyone has heard the joke “Bro, do you even lift?” Don’t get me wrong, everyone knows exercise is good, but too much of even that is a bad thing as body dysmorphia and anorexia prove.

Half the people who contact Bodywhys, the National eating disorder organisation, are between 10 and 24 years of age. Body image disturbance occurs as early as mid-childhood. This constant barrage of ‘thinspo’ is imprinting itself on the minds and self-esteem of children and causing an epidemic of proportions this country is incapable of dealing with.

These people see thinness as a solution to their problems; their body image is distorted from the comparisons they see around them on a daily basis from a young age. They use it as a coping mechanism so they feel they have some control over their lives which, as everyone has experienced, do seem to go a bit crazy once you hit puberty. Your body starting to grow bits or your voice deciding to jump an octave mid-speech would make anyone feel out of their depth. Children suddenly turn into vicious bullies wreaking havoc.

Developing an eating disorder also happens with the occurrence of some disturbance during a person’s life, whether it be social, psychological or in a family context. Added to this, Ireland is incapable of giving these people the support and treatment that they need. Up to eighty people die annually in connection to eating disorders. There is a sever lack of knowledge and proper treatment for many sufferers out there with the majority of proper care being centred in the Dublin area.

Education on eating disorders needs to be improved in schools and the general public, along with accessible services and treatment that is not mostly privatised. Building self-esteem for these young adults needs to be focused on. Even we should focus on being comfortable in our own bodies whether you think your bum looks big in that skirt or worry your guns don’t bulge every time you direct someone to the library. No one is perfect, and in honour of this FemSoc shall be holding an art exhibition entitled ‘Glorious Freaks’. It shall be taking place from 4-8 March on campus.

Catherine Morrow of FemSoc and organiser of ‘Glorious Freaks’ spoke about the exhibition; “We at FemSoc aim to provide a forum for debate and discussion. We want to advance the idea that women and men should enjoy equal status in society, and how can we even begin to be equal if we don’t even feel comfortable in our own skins?

“With this exhibition we want to put the body as material for personal and artistic expression so that we can address what is quickly becoming an epidemic amongst young people today. It is as political as it is personal and we hope that by holding the exhibition people will feel more able to accept themselves for all their flaws and imperfections.”

As a closing piece, the exhibition shall celebrate International Women’s day. It is a day held to inspire women and celebrate their achievements globally. It also aims to promote information about inequality that is rife both nationally and globally. I would encourage people to visit the exhibition and International Women’s day celebration as they will be fun and interesting events to attend.

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