Eating Disorders in TV Shows (3 key implications)

In this blog, we will discuss eating disorders in TV shows and also covers topics like what are eating disorders, their symptoms, types, and tv shows representing eating disorders along with frequently asked questions.

Eating Disorders in TV Shows

Although the term ‘eating disorders’ takes us to the assumption that it is about food but they are more than food. These are complicated mental health issues that frequently necessitate medical and psychological intervention to change their path.

American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) is a manual of mental disorders including eating disorders.

Almost 20 million women and 10 million men in the US have or will have an eating disorder at some point in their life. 

What are eating disorders?

Eating disorders are various mental states that cause poor eating habits. They can emerge with food, body weight, body shape, appearance-related preoccupations.

If left untreated, eating disorders may have major serious health repercussions and even lead to death.

People with eating disorders can have various symptoms. However, most involve undereating,  overeating, purging, etc., such as vomiting, overexercising, etc.

Although eating disorders can afflict individuals of all sexes at any age, teenagers and young women are the most likely to have experienced them. At least one eating problem may affect up to 13% of young people under the age of 20.

If you’re facing this, it may be a good idea to seek the help of a therapist or other mental health professional. You can find a therapist at BetterHelp who can help you learn how to cope and address it.

What causes it?

Experts believe that eating disorders can be caused by several factors like genetics, culture, etc. 


Twins and adoption studies, in which twins were divorced at birth and adopted into different families, provide some evidence that eating disorders can be inherited.

This type of research usually shows that if one twin has an eating disorder, the other has an average of 50% chance of developing an eating disorder. 

Personality related factors

Personal qualities are another factor. Specifically, neuroticism, perfectionism, and impulsivity are three personality traits that are often associated with a higher risk of developing an eating disorder.

Culture and Society

Other potential factors include perceived pressure for leanness, cultural preferences for leanness, and media exposure that supports such values.

In fact, some eating disorders appear to be largely absent in cultures that have not yet been exposed to Western standards of slenderness.

As such, culturally accepted values ​​of adolescents are very common in many parts of the world. However, in some countries, only a few individuals suffer from eating disorders. So it’s probably due to a combination of factors.

Brain structure

Experts have recently proposed that differences in brain anatomy and biology may contribute to the development of eating problems. Serotonin and dopamine messenger levels, for example, could be factors. However, extensive research is required before conclusive conclusions can be formed.

Types of Eating disorders

  • Anorexia nervosa

It is probably the most well-known eating disorder. It usually develops during adolescence and adulthood and is likely to affect more women than men.

Even though they are underweight, people with anorexia are frequently labelled as overweight. They keep a close eye on their weight, avoid particular foods, and limit their calorie intake.

Common symptoms associated with anorexia nervosa:

  • Underweight when compared to people of the same age and height, sometimes even malnourished.
  • Very strict eating habits a serious fear of gaining weight or consistent behaviour to prevent weight gain, even if you are underweight a relentless search for slimness, and a reluctance to maintain a healthy weight. 
  • The strong influence of body weight or perceived body shape on self-confidence distorted body image, including denial of severe underweight
  • Individuals with binge eating and overeating may succumb to large amounts of food or eat very little. In both cases, they are cleaned after eating through activities such as vomiting, taking laxatives or diuretics, or excessive exercise.

Anorexia can be harmful to the body. Over time, people who live with it can experience bone loss, infertility, brittle hair and nails, and a layer of fine hair that grows throughout the body.

  • Bulimia nervosa

It is another known eating disorder. Like anorexia, bulimia is more prone to development during adolescence and early adulthood and appears to be less common in men than in women.

People with bulimia often eat unusually large amounts of food over a period of time and then try to cleanse or purge to compensate for the calories consumed and avoid gaining weight. 

Common cleansing habits include forced vomiting, fasting, laxatives, diuretics, enemas, and excessive exercise. Symptoms can be very similar to overeating or cleansing subtypes of anorexia nervosa. However, individuals with bulimia have normal weight rather than underweight.

Common symptoms of bulimia nervosa include :

  • recurring periods of overeating with a feeling of lack of control
  • repeated periods of inappropriate cleaning habits to prevent weight gain
  • self-image, which is too influenced by body shape and weight
  • fear of gaining weight even with normal weight
  • Bulimia side effects include inflammation and sore throat, salivary gland inflammation, tooth damage, tooth decay, acid reflux, intestinal irritation, severe dehydration, and hormonal disorders 

In severe cases, bulimia can also cause an imbalance in electrolyte levels such as sodium, potassium, and calcium. It can cause a stroke or heart attack.

  • Binge eating disorder

It is also considered to be one of the most common eating disorders, especially in the United States. It usually begins in adolescence and early adulthood, although it may develop later. People with this disease have symptoms similar to bulimia or anorexia nervosa.

For example, they often eat an unusually large amount of food in a short period of time and feel out of control when indulging. People with this disorder do not reduce calories or use cleansing habits such as vomiting or excessive exercise to compensate for their food indulgence.

TV Shows And Eating Disorders

  • Heathers (1989)

Heathers starring Winona Ryder and Christian Slater is a teen film that uses black comedy to solve serious problems, including eating disorders such as bulimia.

The film won cult acclaim and, as one reviewer wrote, “looks like an almost two-hour indifferent comedy, considered a caricature of high school indifference and brutality.”

  • Girl, Interrupted(1999)

The Girl, Interrupted, is based on Susanna Kaysen’s 1993 memoirs. The film stars Angelina Jolie and Winona Ryder, both of whom suffer from mental health problems.

The film tells the story of their stay in a psychiatric institution together with other patients, two of whom suffer from eating disorders.

  • Thin (2006)

Thin, shown at the Sundance Film Festival and screened nationwide on HBO, Thin is a documentary on eating disorders that watches four women with eating disorders treat themselves in a residential area of ​​Florida.

Unfortunately, one of the film members died of his illness in 2008.

  • Superstar: The Story of Karen Carpenter (1987)

Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story is about the real 70’s pop star Karen Carpenter and her public fight against anorexia, a battle that eventually took her life.

The film itself is considered a short, experimental biography that combines real images, portrayals of actors, and many hits of The Carpenters.

  • Flám (2017)

Binge, filmed and starring Harvard graduate Angela Gulner, is a comedy about her real-life battle with bulimia.

“We believe that there is a place in the world for stories that reflect our experiences, especially when those experiences are complicated, chaotic, painful, ugly, disturbing and, well, human,” the series said.

  • When Friendship Kills (1996)

Friendship Kills was filmed for a television drama about two teenage girls who became friends with each other. On their way, women use diets that eventually lead to anorexia nervosa.

  • For the Love of Nancy (1994)

For Nancy’s Love, according to the true story, plays Tracey Gold, an actress who has her own public fight against anorexia.

The television film follows high school graduates and first-year college students as his mental and physical health declines due to anorexia.

  • To the Bone (2017)

To The Bone, screened at the Sundance Film Festival and later on Netflix, starring Lily Collins as Ellen and Keanu Reeves as Dr. William Beckham. The film highlights Ellen’s journey through residential anorexia treatment after she left college.

Why should we watch Eating Disorders related movies?

Movies about anorexia, bulimia, and other types of eating disorders can be difficult for some people to watch, but they can also play an important role for those who have problems.

The films described here cover a variety of genres, including screenplay films, comedies, documentaries, and real-life celebrity biographical films. As eating disorders affect many people and their families, there is a need to raise awareness about them so that the public can better understand them.

It is also important that friends and family members of those who have problems with anorexia or bulimia provide support to help them seek professional help if needed. Perhaps the finding that many celebrities have overcome their own problems will encourage them to overcome ED.

Something as simple as watching movies about eating disorders and watching how they positively and negatively affect others can also inspire many people to consider treatment.

With Eating Disorders Week in February, this is the perfect time to raise awareness and understanding by watching some of these movies.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Eating Disorders in TV Shows

What is considered an eating disorder?

Eating disorder is a serious mental illness that is characterized by food, exercise, and weight or body shape becoming a negative problem in a person’s life.

What is the most serious eating disorder?

The two most serious eating disorders are anorexia nervosa (anorexia) and bulimia nervosa.

What is bigorexia disorder?

Bigorexia is defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5) as a dysmorphic disorder of the body that fears the notion that your body is too small or not muscular enough. If you have bigorexia, you think there is something wrong with the appearance of your body

What is hypergymnasia?

Anorexia Atletica (also called bulimia and hypergymnasia) is an eating disorder in which people control calorie intake through obsessive-compulsive exercise. Today we discuss the symptoms of Athletica anorexia, side effects, and treatment.

What is Pica?

Pica is a food disorder in which people are forced to eat one or more non-food items such as ice, clay, paper, ash, or dirt.

What does Diabulimia mean?

Diabulimia is an eating disorder that only affects people with type 1 diabetes. This is when a person lowers their insulin or stops losing weight. But if you have type 1 diabetes, you need insulin to survive.


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