If you are thinking about doing a school or college assignment based around eating disorders, the first thing you should do is read our section about eating disorders to get a better understanding of the issues in general.
Statistics on Eating Disorders
If you are looking for statistics to do with eating disorders, go here.
Topics for a Project
It is usually a good idea to pick a particular aspect of eating disorders to explore – eating disorders are complex issues and you may not be able to cover every aspect in one project.
- Choose one particular eating disorder to focus on
- Focus on a particular age group, e.g. under 15s, over 40s, etc.
- The reasons a person might develop an eating disorder
- The connection between eating disorders and exercise
- Eating disorders in men and boys
- Services available for the treatment of eating disorders in Ireland
- Body image and eating disorders
- The media and eating disorders
If you are interested in conducting a survey in your school, college or local area, here are some ideas for questions that you could ask:
- Do you know what eating disorders are? Which eating disorders have you heard of?
- What do you think causes eating disorders?
- Do you know someone who might have an eating disorder?
- If you were looking for help with an eating disorder, who would you talk to?
You should be aware that, as with all mental health conditions, there is a certain stigma around eating disorders, so you may find that some people may not wish to disclose their own personal experience of eating disorders in a survey.
If you are conducting more in-depth or long-term research in the area of eating disorders, please see our research section.
If you are making a presentation for your project, or you would like to set up an information stand in your school or college, you can get posters, information sheets and other materials by contacting our head office.
If you need to record an interview with a Bodywhys staff member, please contact the Communications Officer. Please be aware that we get a large number of requests for assistance with student projects and that, while we will do our best to accommodate all requests, our capacity to do so is somewhat limited.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does the mainstream media cause eating disorders?
The mainstream media does not cause eating disorders.
Media influence is frequently blamed for breeding a normative discontent in relation to body image and this is often seen as being a causal factor in the development of eating disorders.
The causes of eating disorders are multiple and very complex. A whole range of factors combine to contribute to the development and maintenance of an eating disorder. However, two of the major risk factors for eating disorders are low self-esteem and dieting.
A culture which promotes obsession with appearance and which markets a particular body shape (thinness in women or leanness and muscularity in men) as desirable and as a means of achieving success and/or happiness can contribute to the erosion of self-esteem in vulnerable individuals. In this context, the constant promotion of dieting also can contribute to creating an unhealthy relationship with food and body.
The effect of the media is to further undermine those individuals who are already vulnerable to developing an eating disorder; and to exacerbate and maintain eating disordered thinking where it is already established. This is why it is so important that the media take responsibility for what they report and recognise the potential impact of messages that have the capacity to undermine healthy self-image and self-esteem which are the cornerstones of mental well-being.
The promotion of ideal body images and shapes can make recovery from eating disorders challenging. The mixed messages can make it difficult for an individual to deal with conflicting thoughts and feelings. These messages perpetuate eating disorder thinking such as unfairly comparing oneself to others, under valuing one’s self-worth and being overly self-critical.
Does the fashion industry cause eating disorders? Fashion models and the fashion industry do not cause eating disorders in wider society, though some who are employed in this area may be directly affected by the issue. Concerns about the well-being of models must be framed in the context of health rather than focusing solely on food or weight.
Are there any eating disorder issues which are specific to men?
Please see here.
Do young men and women show similar signs when experiencing eating disorders or do they differ greatly in this respect?
Men, in some respects, find it harder to ask for support such as attending a GP/doctor. This is partly due to the stigma and a common misconception that it is a ‘female issue’. Two of the main risk factors for eating disorders are low self-esteem and a history of dieting. In terms of physical symptoms, this will vary depending on the person and the nature of their eating disorder. However, the underlying feelings – guilt, shame and fear are common amongst those affected, regardless of which disorder they are dealing with. In 2013, 20% of those attending Bodywhys face-to-face support groups were male.
Do you believe the subject of eating disorders in young men receives enough attention in Ireland?
Where possible, Bodywhys draws attention to this issue through its media work. It remains difficult, however, for men to come forward and tell their personal story in the public spotlight. In the broader mental health context, there have been campaigns to tackle stigma, which appear to be making it more acceptable to open up and seek support. When men (or their families, friends and partners) contact our support services, Bodywhys offers reassurance that their support needs are as valid as anyone else’s.
What can men do to prevent/combat eating potential eating disorders
It is important to encourage men and boys to seek support if they are having problems in their relationship with food, or if they are using weight as a coping mechanism for emotional distress. As with women and girls, there is often no one set cause of eating disorder amongst men. However, two risks factors for the development of an eating disorder are low self-esteem and a history of dieting. Many people describe an eating disorder as a vicious cycle. Acknowledging that there is a problem is that first step towards getting help and moving towards recovery.
Where and how can people recover?
Recovery is very individual and can take time. The first step to recovery is acknowledging that there is a problem and then seeking help. Recovery varies from one person to another. Some people will try medical help, others will engage in psychotherapy or counselling and seek support from Bodywhys, family and friends. Often a combination of supports is needed. Please see here for more information about recovery.