The Role of Peer Pressure in Disordered Eating

Being a young person today comes with tremendous pressure. Adolescents are at an age where they start to discover who they are and where they fit in with the group. Peer pressure is an unfortunate part of the process and young people do everything they can to keep from sticking out in the crowd.

Peer pressure is associated with all sorts of harmful behaviors, from skipping school to experimenting with substances. One of the most detrimental effects of peer pressure is the development of disordered eating behaviors. Eating disorders are a common struggle for adolescents throughout the United States and peer pressure plays a serious role.

Adolescence is the time when young people begin noticing their physical appearance and how it compares to their friends. The need to look a certain way can cause all sorts of problems. Young boys and girls may develop an eating disorder under the pressure to fit within a specific mold.

What role does peer pressure play in disordered eating? How does the need to fit in during adolescence lead some to develop an eating disorder? And how can these young people find the help they need before their problem progresses too far?

The Pressure to Fit a Certain Mold

Eating disorders are one of the tragic effects of the societal expectation to look a specific way. Young people are not immune to the pressure from their peers to meet these physical standards of beauty. Physical appearance is especially important to adolescents as they reach the beginning stages of puberty.

Eating disorders are a condition often associated with adolescents and young adults. Research shows that the association is mostly accurate because 95% of people with an eating disorder are between the ages of 12 and 25. Growing numbers of studies are now also considering the role that peer pressure plays in disordered eating.

One study of 6th- through 8th-grade boys and girls shows that peer pressure plays a notable role in the development of eating disorders for both males and females. Students who want to be liked by their peers often turn to disordered eating behaviors as a way to control their appearance.

A meta-analysis of 25 studies also revealed similar findings. Adolescents develop a sense of body dissatisfaction from watching their peers and friends. This dissatisfaction leads to things like bulimic symptoms and dieting behavior. These symptoms may develop into an eating disorder later on as peer pressure continues.

Social Media Plays a Role, Too

Peer pressure doesn’t only exist within the school hallways or locker rooms; peer pressure is just as prevalent online as it is in person. Social media plays a part in the ways that adolescents deal with peer pressure nowadays. The need to fit that societal mold bleeds into their social media feeds as well.

Adolescents are bombarded with constant images of how they “should” look when scrolling on apps like Instagram or TikTok. Studies are also looking at the effects these platforms have on body image and disordered eating in young people. They feel they need to look the same way as the individuals they follow do.

Another alarming thing about social media and peer pressure is the prevalence of online eating disorder communities. Adolescents who struggle with an eating disorder can find whole groups of people online that support one another in their harmful behaviors. Peer pressure is a serious problem for these young people as they try to find their way in the world.

A major problem with the role of peer pressure in eating disorders is the lasting effects it has. One 10-year longitudinal study revealed that disordered eating behaviors in adolescence often persist throughout the following years. Young people who struggle with an eating disorder are still at risk for these behaviors even 10 years later.

Finding Help For an Eating Disorder

Eating disorders can lead to serious long-term consequences when left untreated. The physical harm done by eating disorders may leave people with lasting problems. Thankfully, a spectrum of services for the treatment of eating disorders is available to help. There is hope for individuals struggling with these complicated conditions.

Toledo Center for Eating Disorders is a facility that provides comprehensive eating disorder treatment. We understand the complex physical, mental, and emotional struggles that eating disorders cause. We tailor our comprehensive range of services to each individual who comes to us for help, building an individualized treatment plan that’s right for you.

Through the use of evidence-based treatment methods, Toledo Center for Eating Disorders serves the unique needs of all who come into our care. Our diverse team of professionals teaches and equips you with the coping skills and symptom control needed for success. Recovery is possible and Toledo Center for Eating Disorders is here to offer that care.

Toledo Center for Eating Disorders is here for you each step of the way. To learn more about our programs, contact us today. Our admissions specialists will walk you through the available options, answer any questions you may have, and connect you with the program that’s the best fit for your needs.

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