Earlier this year, Netflix released a controversial film about suicide and mental illness titled, 13 Reasons Why which sparked controversy among mental health professionals. Netflix followed up with another hair pulling feature, To The Bone, on eating disorders that was recently released but the newest film on eating disorders, Feed, was actually directed by an actress who suffered with anorexia nervosa, the most lethal diseases out of all mental health disorders. Troian Bellisario, a young actress known for her star role in Pretty Little Liars, suffered from anorexia nervosa and directed the new film, Feed, in order to raise awareness about the reality of living with an eating disorder. In this newly released film, twin siblings entering their last year of high school endure a tragic loss that leaves one of them resorting to unhealthy behaviors resulting in anorexia nervosa. The film follows her journey through the depths and despairs of the realistic life of someone diagnosed with an eating disorder. Bellisario believes that this film is more than just a movie but rather a true-life depiction of what it means to live with an eating disorder. Troian has spoken previously about Feed’s story, and how it relates to her own experiences. The actress turned director has been open about her own personal experience with anorexia nervosa explaining the movie by saying: “I sat down and I wrote a version of my own story. It’s not the exact events, but what I wanted to do with the film was get the audience to understand what it sounds like and what it feels like to be struggling with that illness.” 

How the media portrays eating disorders

The media often falsely portrays anorexia nervosa as a disorder associated with starvation and weight loss that affects young thin Caucasian females who are from an upper middle class background who strive for perfection. Unfortunately this unrealistic stereotype of eating disorders is the common belief among the general population due to the large influence of Hollywood. In reality, eating disorders are serious mental health disorders that result in the need to gain a sense of self-control. Eating disorders are more than an obsession with food and weight loss but are characterized by underlying triggers that are associated with depression, self-harm, trauma, interpersonal conflicts, substance abuse, low self-esteem, and anxiety. Many mental health professionals argue that the media falsely depicts the reality of eating disorders and also glamourizes them to an extent by portraying a thin body image as a sign of beauty. Eating disorders are anything but glamorous. They create a devastating reality and without proper recognition and treatment can result in death. Additionally, eating disorders do not discriminate against gender, ethnicity, age or body type and it is important for the general population to understand that men as well as non-Caucasian individuals are also affected by eating disorders.

Is the media a trigger for eating disorders?

Many professionals believe that controversial films about eating disorders can be a trigger for individuals to engage in binging and purging behaviors. Many individuals who are battling with eating disorders or who are in the beginning of their recovery can be triggered by provocative images associated with binging and purging and therefore watching a film or engaging in social media posts can result in their eating disorder relapse. Although the media is working to shed light on such a controversial issue, they are also creating potential triggers for harmful behaviors.

Center for Discovery

Living with an eating disorder can drive you into many difficult struggles and therefore obtaining professional help is the only proven way to overcome your struggle. Center for Discovery is a nationwide treatment center family that focuses on eating disorders with over 30 years of treatment experience. They work to establish a relationship with each individual client while also providing the most up to date cutting edge care in a compassionate setting.