UPDATE : 2018.11.27 화 16:21

[Vol. 78] Social Media: Hidden Cause of the Obsession with Appearance

이소영 기자l승인2017.11.29l수정2017.11.30 01:35

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How many times do you look at yourself in a mirror a day? How often do you think you should go on a diet in a month? It will be quite a lot. It is a natural phenomenon that people have their eyes on their appearance. However, the situation can be different if people regard themselves as bad when they look in a mirror even though they are not. For example, there was a middle school student in Korea who lost 20 kilograms and became slim. However, she was not satisfied herself and started to eat only a cucumber, a potato and a scoop of ice cream for a week. Consequently, she weighed only 35 kilograms. Like this situation, when people become obsessed with their physical appearance, it can cause various types of mental disorders.

One of them is eating disorder whose patients have an obsession with their body. Anorexia is a typical eating disorder that forces a person to refuse meals in order to lose weight. Bulimia is also one of the eating disorders to repeat abnormal actions to devour a lot of food in a short time losing their grip and try to avoid gaining weight through vomiting or excessive exercise. They are not the same, but patients with both disorders consider themselves as fatter than they actually are and try to shed pounds obsessively, fearing about gaining weight. These days, you may hear some news like the following frequently: “One member of the girl group Oh My Girl dropped out of the team because of anorexia,” “A singer IU confessed that she had gone to the hospital to treat bulimia,” and so on. A musician Karen Carpenter and a model Isabelle Caro even died from anorexia. However, not only celebrities but the public can suffer from these diseases. According to the data from Health Insurance Review and Assessment Service, the number of patients who are being treated for eating disorders is about ten thousand. Experts suppose that there will be more patients, considering the feature of disease that people go to the hospital only after their situation gets really serious. In reality, there are some online communities to exchange information about eating disorders, and more than three thousand people already have joined in the Salt Doll which is one of those communities. Considering these facts, it seems that many people are afflicted with these mental disorders.

Besides mental illnesses about the body, there is a mental disorder concerning face since people are also sensitive about their looks. Some people say, “I hate my face.” or “It is terrible that other people look my face.” They suffer from Body Dysmorphic Disorder, so-called BBD syndrome. It is a mental disorder to make people think they have a serious defect on their appearances even though they do not. For example, Alana who has been troubled with BBD syndrome frustrates many times in a day because of her looks. She spends four hours putting on makeup, and she feels hard to go out when she is lacking in confidence on her face. After all, because of these symptoms, she left her school when she was 15. According to BBC, it is supposed that 1 out of 50 people is the patient with the disease, but most of them do not recognize it. The patients look into a mirror very frequently and sometimes modify their face through cosmetic procedure or surgery. Some of them become addicted to the surgery because they are not satisfied with the results, and their faces change to the extent that people cannot find their previous figures. You can think it has nothing to do with you. If you look at the list of the symptom of BBD syndrome, however, you may think it is close to you.

<The list of the symptom of BBD syndrome>

1. You look into a mirror excessively frequently.
2. You often check a condition of your skin, touching it using your finger.
3. You keep peeling off your skin.
4. You compare yourself to the others or celebrities.
5. You often talk about the appearance.
6. You avoid particular places or behaviors because of your appearance.

Since these mental illnesses are related to appearances which are shown to others, the social cause is considered as an important factor. The main social causes are sharing unsound information about improving their appearance and spreading social atmosphere that lays stress on appearances. Even worse, information and atmosphere are widespread following the development of media. Many eating disorder patients point out social network services which give information about an abnormal method to lose weight as a trigger of the disease. A director of one eating disorder clinic said that those who suffer from these disorders tend to know unhealthy behaviors such as chewing food and then spitting or binging on food and then vomiting. Not only offering some information but also making some atmosphere by media, people become obsessed with their appearances. You can easily watch the scene of the TV program that people who look great are warmly welcomed. Also, you may read many articles which belittle or praise celebrity’s appearance. In the media which has the significant role to make the mentality, the importance of appearance is expressed directly and indirectly, and uniform standard of beauty is suggested.

To cure these mental disorders, patients need to try to recognize themselves healthily and to be treated with psychotherapy and drug treatment personally. Furthermore, correcting sociocultural causes is also a critical part. As a way of rectifying them, the media can impose sanctions on the content that encourages diet and plastic surgery. The media can also try to make an atmosphere that accepts various appearances without distinction. These efforts may lead the changes and help people get out from the obsession with appearance. Kim Seong-cheol, a professor of Korea University School of Media & Communication, said, “The distorted figure that people judge others by the appearance, not the personality will be changed if the lookism in the media is overcome gradually.”
 


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