An eating disorder is a serious health condition involving extremely disturbed dietary habits. It is now estimated that eight million Americans have an eating disorder, seven million women and one million men. Eating disorders are often caused by stress and are tied into depression and anger, which is why it isn't surprising that the number of people affected by eating disorders are increasing daily because of the value society places on being thin. In America, women and men are given the message at a very young age that in order to be happy and successful, they must look a certain way. Every time you walk into a store you are surrounded by the images of skinny and fit models that appear on the front cover of all fashion magazines and billboards. Thousands of teenage girls are starving themselves this very minute trying to attain what the fashion industry considers to be the “ideal” figure. An average female model weighs 23% less than the average woman and maintaining a weight that is 15% below your expected body weight fits the criteria for anorexia. Many people do not understand the seriousness of an eating disorder. Truth is, an eating disorder is like a disease. Once you develop the disorder, it is very hard to recover from it. Slowly, your health deteriorates and one by one, the organs in the body start failing. Not a lot of people realize this, but this thought of the ideal body is slowly causing a rise in eating disorders, that are now a major social problem.

There are many reasons that can contribute to the development of an eating disorder. One of the many reasons is the fear of gaining weight that leads to an obsession with weight due to the constant pressure of weighing a few more pounds. People, especially teenagers, are exposed to hundreds of television commercials, flyer ads, and other forms of the media, that continue to portray a thin female beauty ideal and a muscular male body ideal which ends up planting itself on the back of a teen’s head. This slowly causes one, to want to achieve that certain image, no matter how unhealthy their dietary plan gets. Mass media plays a huge impact on the adolescent minds. The constant display of the ‘perfect body’ influences most of the teens these days and as they constantly try to achieve that image, they become willing to try a variety of dangerous weight-loss practices in order to attain the perfect body. Although the media plays a huge role in the onset of eating disorders, the media is also an important tool for health promotion and prevention strategies. It needs to play its role in preventing the seed it plants in one’s mind from growing into a full blown tree as well.

Although there are a lot of different factors that contribute to the onset of eating disorders, the prevention and treatment steps are far more important. The first step towards overcoming one’s eating disorder is to get rid of the perception that a particular diet, weight or body size will automatically lead to happiness and/or fulfillment. You'd have to change your view on a lot of things, to overcome the barrier and it starts with eliminating the idea of the perfect body and the perfect weight. These ideas contribute to the drastic decisions teens these days make, that is to starve themselves, binge eat and then throw up everything they have consumed or go on unhealthy extreme diets. Once these ideas are removed, then the individual can focus on ways to climb out of the hole they put themselves in.

Eating disorders are serious health conditions that can be both physically and emotionally destructive, professional help is always recommended. In most cases, the eating disorder has developed to a point where it starts to deteriorate the individual’s health system and thus, professional treatment is necessary. There are many types of treatments an individual that “includes psychotherapy, psychological counseling, medical treatment and nutrition counseling.” Sometimes, all it takes for the individual to overcome their eating disorder is counseling, but it all depends on the individual itself. It is always important to keep in mind that treatment is available and recovery is possible for almost all eating disorders. Obtaining professional help to treat an eating disorder is crucial to recovery as “eating disorders have one of the highest death rates of any psychiatric illness.” The best way to treat an eating disorder is to educate the youngsters about the symptoms and effects of it, and how to detect an eating disorder that is starting to develop as it is way easier to prevent an eating disorder from developing when detected at an early stage. Some main tell-tale signs of an eating disorder include an irrational fear of becoming fat, dissatisfaction with one's body often along with a distorted perception of body shape, unhealthy weight management and extreme or minimum to no food intake. This behavior is usually an effort to solve a variety of emotional and physical difficulties about which the individual feels out of control. Males and females of all social and economic classes, races and intelligence levels can develop an eating disorder and it is our responsibility to educate and raise awareness to prevent more and more people to succumb to an eating disorder.