Body image is a big part of why eating disorders may develop. But, for specific eating disorders, different body image issues may be present. For example, Bulimia Nervosa is a body issue disorder and can develop as a result of a number of causes, including body image issues.
What is Bulimia Nervosa?
Before understanding the body image issues that come into play when it comes to the development of bulimia, it’s important to understand what this disorder is. Bulimia is characterized by a number of criteria according to the DSM-5, a diagnosing manual developed by the American Psychiatric Association. This criterion includes:
- eating large amounts of food in short periods of time
- experiencing uncontrollable eating (not being able to control how much they eat)
- performing “purging” behaviors in order to reduce caloric intake (such as using laxatives and self-induced vomiting)
- episodes of both binging and purging at least once every week
- performing these behaviors due to negative self-image concepts of weight and body size
- performing binging and purging behaviors that aren’t due to other underlying eating disorders like anorexia
Bulimia Typically Develops During Adolescence – When Body Image Issues Arise
During adolescence, the human body goes through a number of changes as we grow. These changes influence how we view ourselves and can greatly impact our self-body image. This is why bulimia nervosa is most commonly developed during adolescence. When a growing woman views her body as one that she doesn’t want during development, she may begin to implement tactics in order to change her appearance. For example, binging and purging behaviors, which can begin a dangerous cycle of behaviors that can lead to the development of this eating disorder.
Issues that Contribute to a Body Issue Disorder Like Bulimia Nervosa
Bulimia nervosa is a body image disorder, which means that it develops as the result of negative body image issues. Some of the things that can impact a person’s self-image and stimulate body image issues can include:
Family: Some evidence suggests that there is a hereditary aspect of eating disorders, including bulimia, just like other mental health issues. However, even more, family can also contribute to developed self-image issues without even knowing it. For example, when a parent struggles with body image issues herself, he or she may unknowingly say or portray behaviors that can influence his or her children. Furthermore, parents can contribute to body image issues by insisting their children obtain certain body weight, image, or size. This can include forcing children into physical activities, mentioning their negative opinion on their child’s body image, and other focus on body image.
The Media: Certainly, everyone is influenced by the media in some ways. When Hollywood actors, Victoria’s Secret models, and every other woman on the big screen wear a size 0, it’s challenging for our youth to accept their bodies as ‘normal’, when in fact, they are. The media portrays unrealistic images of people that can negatively influence an individual’s ideas of their own body.
Social Media: Nothing on social media is ever realistic. So, of course, with all the filters, weight-loss accounts, and the heavy beauty standards set on influencers, it’s easy for adolescents of today to think these images on social accounts are realistic. Thus, leading to negative self-reflection when one’s own image doesn’t compare.
Peer Pressure: While family and media certainly carry their own weight when it comes to influencing body image issues, peers perhaps have the most influence. Mocking, bullying, and body shaming from peers can greatly affect adolescents and their view and acceptance of their own bodies, even if it’s unintentional. Even when subtle, remarks and judgment from peers about weight, body image, and size can lead to negative self-image and esteem, leading to the development of eating disorders.
Getting Help for Bulimia
While there are certainly many things that can contribute to the development of a body issue disorder like bulimia nervosa, fortunately, there is help for these individuals. Treatment that involves both individualized and group therapy with both traditional and holistic methods is proven successful in helping people living with bulimia to overcome self-damaging behavior. And, establish a healthy life of mental health wellbeing.