We all know that there is a myriad of different mental disorders that plague our society. However, how many of these disorders are caused by negative beauty issues? And how many of those are a result of the unrealistic beauty standards seen every day?
The answer to the first question can be answered easily. This society is overflowing with mental health issues and disorders that entail negative body image problems. The most notorious ones are eating disorders.
The answer to the second question can be answered partially. While the unrealistic beauty standard has been in place for a long time, there is no doubt that it has gotten worse with time, especially with social media and photoshopped magazine covers. However, along with an increase in unrealistic beauty standards, there has also been an increase in mental disorders relating to self-image and self-esteem. This simultaneous increase suggests a relationship between the two that cannot be ignored.
In fact, while not all, some disorders have been linked to beauty standard issues, such as eating disorders. “The media puts a large amount of pressure on females to meet a certain social and cultural standard of beauty, which can inevitably lead to poor body image and eating disorders.”
A study was done on the relationship between media and eating disorders among undergraduate college students, and the results revealed that media exposure predicted symptoms of eating disorders. Many researchers as well have hypothesized that the media plays a big role in “creating and intensifying the phenomenon of body dissatisfaction and, consequently, may be partly responsible for the increase in the prevalence of eating disorders.”
Here are some of the most common eating disorders:
Anorexia is the most well-known eating disorder. People with anorexia view themselves as overweight regardless of their dangerously underweight appearance. Therefore, they severely restrict their calorie intake. Symptoms include: “very restricted eating patterns, intense fear of gaining weight or persistent behaviors to avoid gaining weight, despite being underweight, a relentless pursuit of thinness and unwillingness to maintain a healthy weight, a heavy influence of body weight or perceived body shape on self-esteem, a distorted body image, including denial of being seriously underweight.”
Rumination disorder describes a condition in which a person “regurgitates food they have previously chewed and swallowed, re-chews it, and then either re-swallows it or spits it out.” This leads to them losing weight and becoming underweight. Individuals with purging disorder often use purging behaviors too, such as “vomiting, laxatives, diuretics, or excessive exercising, to control their weight or shape”
Another common eating disorder is bulimia. People with bulimia frequently eat unusually large amounts of food in a specific period of time called binge eating episodes, usually until the person becomes painfully full. Then they indulge in purging to compensate for the calories consumed: forced vomiting, fasting, laxatives, diuretics, enemas, and excessive exercise. Symptoms include “self-esteem overly influenced by body shape and weight, and a fear of gaining weight, despite having a typical weight”
However, eating disorders are not the only beauty-related disorders that reflect the irrational standards of today’s world. Body Dysmorphic Disorder, one of the most challenging and disheartening psychological disorders, also plagues an already anxiety-filled society by enhancing their appearance insecurities by a million.
“There are varying degrees of distortion based upon the discrepancy between reality and perception. The most severe of these cases is a condition called body dysmorphic disorder (BDD)”
While the cause of this disorder is unknown, there have been theories that these irrational beauty standards can trigger it: “Western society’s narrow standards of beauty may trigger BDD in vulnerable people.”
It seems that beauty standards definitely affect the development of mental disorders in people, and while it might not be the one specific culprit to be blamed for them, it does work as a trigger to activate them while still affecting about half of teenagers and their self-esteem.