Assessing the Integration of Objectification Theory in Treatment Models for Eating Disordered Patients
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Objectification theory (Fredrickson & Roberts, 1997) suggests that women are sexually objectified in Western culture and external pressures to adhere to certain beauty standards are internalized by women, causing many damaging consequences. Women's bodies are portrayed as objects and evaluated based on socially prescribed norms as to what is considered attractive. Resulting from sexual objectification is self-objectification, where women constantly monitor their appearance, body shape, and size. The consequences of objectification have been recognized in past research, and strong links to disordered eating behaviors and attitudes have been identified. Objectification theory and its constructs are identified and reviewed. Objectification theory's relation to eating disorders has been found in studies that place women in objectifying situations and observe their eating habits. Moreover, women who experience symptoms related to eating disorders, such as body shame and body surveillance, frequently show higher levels of self-objectification than women who do not display such symptoms. The sociocultural causes of disordered eating symptoms and objectification are evaluated with specific focus placed on the media. Media images that portray the thin ideal while objectifying women's bodies have been shown to have negative impact on women's views of their own bodies. Because media images reach mass amounts of people worldwide, its impact is vast and cannot be ignored in the perpetuation of objectification. The current study proposes that an analysis of objectification theory's current use in treatment methods for eating disordered patients at treatment facilities in the United States be conducted. Recommended methods for assessing the level of objectification theory's use are described.