Sunday, September 21, 2014

Health Issue Wk 4 - Eating Disorder

With mass media brainwashing us to believe that beauty (for women) equates to being 5 feet, 10 inches tall, weighs 116 lbs. with an hourglass figure of 36”-24”-36”.  I do not know whether this is even possible, but most school girls and women feel the pressure to be physically perfect in order to be beautiful. 

“By age 6, girls especially start to express concerns about their own weight or shape. 40-60% of elementary school girls (ages 6-12) are concerned about their weight or about becoming too fat. This concern endures through life.” (Smolak, 2011).
Individuals with eating disorders developed this illness at some point during a traumatic experience(s) which they were teased and/or humiliated for being overweight. Trauma like this can cause the individual to binge eating, purging behavior, or using of drugs to numb the pain or trying to take control over their lives – no matter how false the sense of control may be.
13 million Americans have an eating disorder – and it is not only women – 1 million is men.  Social Media promotes fear of becoming fat among children in the age of 10. (See Figure 1, CNN)

(Figure 1, CNN)

Eating disorder is no laughing matter. It has the highest morality rate out of all the mental illness. Treatment costs in the US ranges from $500-$2000 per day in a clinical setting. (DMH)  This amount seems unbelievably high. I started to wonder if there are non-clinical or private centers that offer help at a discount. I found an article on eating disorder and art-making in Canada where they offer help in free non-clinical, community-based support centers.

The article points out that there are two major challenges to recovery for individuals with eating disorders.  One is that cost of the treatment and the second is the patient’s feeling of ambivalence that associates with eating disorders. The study used phenomenological methods while they interviewed 6 women for this study. In this discussion-based and art-based group study, the findings resulted in 4 themes:
1.       Sense of Control over Process
2.       Sense of Safety
3.       Development of Self-awareness
4.       Improvement in Sense of Emotional Well-being
“All of the participants have mentioned in their moods as a result of attending the art-based groups….Other research suggests that engaging in creative thoughts can increase  blood flow to the brain,…studies also find that serotonin, a brain chemical that helps to alleviate feelings of depression, is increased during creative activities.” (Ki, 2011)
The article did not share the exact art projects used because they wanted to give the participants the freedom from the “pressure of having to develop new ideas and at the same time helped them engage with personal issues to whatever extent they chose.” (Ki, 2011)
I wonder if coloring a predesigned mandala or creating their own pattern before a meal would help the patient from binge eating.  From the Patricia Ki’s article, it is obvious that art-making is beneficial to the participants, but I wonder if what specific project would be the most beneficial to help treat the illness. Eating disorder can take up to 15 years to recover. If I were to work with an anorexic, what art project would actually empower them to overcome the situation and the lie of beauty?  I don’t believe art-making would be the only key to recovery, but it would play an important role.
About 10 years ago, Dove launched a campaign to create a paradigm shift for self-image and beauty. Using the arts, Dove ‘Real Beauty’ Campaign produced a video to help spread awareness in homes to safe another person from self-hatred. It shows how impossible it truly is to have it all without manipulations of Photoshop or surgery.

Smolak, L. (2011). Body image development in childhood. In T. Cash & L. Smolak (Eds.),
Body Image: A Handbook of Science, Practice, and Prevention (2nd ed.). New York: Guilford.
Ki, P. (2011). Exploring the experiences of participants in short-term art-based support groups for adults living with eating disorders. Canadian Art Therapy Association Journal 24:1-12

(2014) South Carolina Department of Mental Health. Retrieve from

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