Why Are So Many Girls Suffering From Anorexia?

The pandemic has caused an increase in social media usage.

Why Are So Many Girls Suffering From Anorexia?

She was exposed as a child to toxic substances. She was mature for her young age. She was smarter than her school. She was too smart for her school. Her school was rigid. Her school was not flexible enough. She was a ballet dancer as a young child. She was suffering from a hormonal imbalance. She was simply unbalanced. She was a painfully immature woman. She wanted to be noticed. She wanted to be forgotten. She was obsessed by sex. She was averse to sex. She wanted to be male. She wanted to look like Kate Moss. She was a part of the current zeitgeist.

Here are 75 reasons given by doctors, therapists, and others for Hadley Freeman's severe anorexia.

Freeman is the author of the riveting memoir 'Good Girls, A Study and Story Of Anorexia'. She became ill in the 1990s. But over the past few years the incidence of anorexia has increased. It primarily affects preteens and teenage girls. Joanna Steinglass is the director of the Eating Disorders Research Clinic of Columbia University and New York State Psychiatric Institute. She told me that during Covid a number of published data indicated an increase in eating disorders, both inpatients and outpatients. The increase in eating disorders was not just in the United States where Freeman is from, but in other countries as well, including Britain where Freeman received her diagnosis and was treated.

Anorexia has been around for many years. Why does it seem to be getting worse?

Has the pandemic caused an increase? Is it linked to social media or other factors? Does it have anything to do with the increase in depression and anxiety rates among girls?

In the shadow of Karen Carpenter's death in 1983 from complications of the illness, I was a teenager and the narrative of 'dying for thinness' predominated. The disorder was attributed to a combination (mostly maternal missteps) and a culture which praised a thin physique. Ballet and gymnastics was seen as dangerous endeavors. 'Perfectionist' tendencies could also be a red flag.

We still do not know what causes anorexia. In recent decades, we've learned more. Anorexia used to be viewed as a result of cultural and individual influences and behaviors. But we now know that it has a neurological component.

Steinglass said that we had gained a better understanding of the neurobiological foundations of anorexia in the past 20 years. Steinglass told me that there are brain mechanisms behind all of this. 'Not to say there isn’t a person and behaviors, but there's a lot more going on.' Recent research has shown, for instance, that anorexics activate different brain regions when deciding what to eat than people who do not have disordered eating. Some research suggests that metabolic factors play a part.

Evidence also suggests a genetic component, but the extent to how genes and the environment might combine to cause the disorder is unknown. Freeman's book quotes a doctor from the Eating Disorders Research Unit of King's College London who said, "You need genetic soil as well as environmental triggers."

Freeman is among several authors who have written recent books about their anorexia experiences. Jennette McCurdy describes her anorexia and bulimia in her best-selling book, "I'm Glad My Mother Died." Rachel Aviv, a journalist and author of 'Strangers To Ourselves Unsettled minds And The Stories That Make Us' recounts her experience with anorexia when she was six years old.

Anorexia is often triggered by a "trigger" or a "precipitant" incident. Aviv's trigger was Yom Kippur when she realized that she could refuse food. She writes that the decision retained the religious energy of the holiday, and had an aura martyrdom. McCurdy's anorexic mom taught her 'caloric restrictions' as an 11-year old child actress who was desperate to avoid puberty and appear younger and thinner in order to land roles. Freeman was in gym class when he sat next to a student with very bony legs who said: "I wish I were normal like you." This was the trigger. Freeman describes how a black tunnel opened inside of him and he tumbled through it. She writes that normal was boring. 'Normal is nothing.'

Freeman became anorexic. Freeman said, 'As a teenager in the 1990s, I had other choices: goth, skating, punk'. "But I chose that." Her illness was rapid and severe, requiring her to be hospitalized multiple times.


In group settings such as hospital wards, it is possible to inadvertently encourage anorexia. Aviv and Freeman observed that while the goal of this study was to teach girls new behaviors, they were actually learning them from each other. This reinforced and intensified their disordered eating. One 2016 study found that girls with highly educated parents and more girls in their school are more likely than boys to develop anorexia.

This evidence of social influence is what leads some to attribute social media to either a cause of the disease or as a factor that contributes to its exacerbation. In January, a mother from Hastings-on-Hudson in New York filed a suit against Meta, TikTok and its parent company ByteDance. The Rivertowns Enterprise reported that the apps started showing her daughter's posts about eating disorders when she began following accounts relating to diets and exercise. Some eating disorder clinics discourage patients from interacting with each other on social media. While mutual support is helpful, there's a tendency for people to become competitive and fall back into old habits.

Current anorexia studies are focusing on habits, how they form and can be broken. It becomes a ritual to not eat. Aviv writes in her book that 'an impulsive decision eventually gathers momentum and becomes increasingly difficult to reverse. Freeman's obsessive-compulsive disorder aided her anorexia. Anorexia is a super O.C.D. Freeman said that he was obsessively weighing himself and counting calories. "For me, this routine was very reassuring and soothing." She says that starving yourself can be a self-soothing technique.

Freeman notes in her book that some doctors believe there is a connection between anorexia, autism spectrum disorder and rigidity of thinking. It is possible that there is a genetic link here. In a 2022 Swedish study, children whose mothers had eating disorders were'significantly related to attention deficit hyperactivity and autism spectrum disorder', even after adjusting for family histories.

All three books reveal that the central feature of the disorder is a feeling of powerlessness, and a desire to control. These feelings of powerlessness are often centered around the discomfort associated with puberty and sexuality, as well as adulthood. McCurdy wrote that she still wore board shorts in order to cover her ass. It was curvy, womanly, and disgusting. I wish my body was not sexually suggestive or suggestive.

Freeman wants to dispel any notion that anorexia stems from a desire to lose weight. She says that the goal instead is to appear ill and like a skeleton. It's all about chasing death. Anorexia, among psychiatric diseases, is one of the most deadly. Both Freeman's and Aviv’s books discuss revisiting cases after the deaths of their wardmates.

Freeman said, 'Anorexia can be a way to tell people that you are unhappy without having to say it out loud because it makes it look entitled.' It's an outward sign that something is wrong.

There is something very wrong. Statistics are alarming. A British study in 2022 of 15,000 students revealed that girls were more likely than boys to have mental health issues. In a 2019 Lancet Psychiatry report, self-harm by teenage girls and women tripled from 2000 to 2014. Between 2010 and 2020, the percentage of American girls that have experienced a major depression episode in the past year increased by 145 percent. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly three out of five teenage girls felt 'persistent sadness' in 2021. This is the highest percentage in the last decade. Girls seem to take out their pain on themselves, no matter what they feel or where they were born. Why? We must ask ourselves this question.