How Does Social Media Trigger Disordered Eating Behaviors?

Recently, the National Institute of Health’s National Library of Medicinewent a long way toward proving that there is a connection between social media and disordered eating. According to a recent study, up to 2.6 percent of the population will need treatment for anorexia nervosa, binge eating disorder, or another eating disorder before they can legally drink alcohol. This research showed a relationship between eating disorders, body dysmorphia, and self-perception (frequent causes of eating disorders) and social media in a sample of about 1800 adults aged 19 to 25.

For this reason, the experts who specialize in treating eating disorders have begun to take social media into account. When people at risk of developing an eating disorder are washed over in the images and videos they see on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, social media can be a strong triggering factor in the rise of bulimia nervosa and other eating disorders.

What Are theSigns andSymptoms of Eating Disorders?

To make sure people truly understand the risks, it’s important to first outline the signs and symptoms of bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa.In some situations, people might be confused about the difference between the two prominent eating disorders. Some aspects of bulimia nervosa may be present in other eating disorders, such as binge eating episodes, which of course are found in binge eating disorder.

For an eating disorder to be classified as bulimia nervosa, an individual must display repeated and regular binge eating episodes, which are usually conducted in secret, and often coming with an intense feeling of guilt or shame about the disordered eating behaviors. People with bulimia nervosa often feel like they can’t control their eating behaviors and also feel a loss of control over their weight.

In the classic diagnosis of bulimia nervosa, binge eating episodes, or even regular meals are followed by purging. Purging methods, like fasting or extreme dieting, self-induced vomiting (the classic behavior symptom), compulsive exercise patterns, or abusing laxatives or diuretics are used as a way to offset the potential weight gain. To make a full diagnosis, these actions must recur at least weekly for a few months.

Another symptom that relates to bulimia nervosa is a poor, negative, or distorted body image – thinking they are “fat” or “ugly.”  This can be triggered by media imagery and social media.

Eating Disorder Treatment And Social Media

People with eating disorders often have a flawed perception of their bodies, and make comparisons to other people’s bodies, especially idealized bodies seen in advertising. Social media’s impact on a vulnerable person’s self-image, especially among young people, can hardly be overstated. Younger people live their entire lives online, viewing their social media platforms several times a day, and being exposed to idealized bodies each time.

While social media can certainly help people connect with old pals and forge new friendships, it can also be riddled with bullies and harassment. Social media profiles are curated, featuring altered photos as well as unrealistic, entirely positive depictions of others’ lifestyles. Through the use of social media, young people can reach out for support and make new connections.

Although social media has many pluses, it can coax people into thinking that they aren’t living up to society’s expectations of them, or that their body is unattractive. Even more than with traditional media like TV or films social media can further distort a person’s mental health state. The user can interact with the “ideal” model or even people they know who are presenting a curated version of their life, adding to the pressure for perfection the eating disorder brings.

The earlier treatment for an eating disorder like bulimia nervosa or anorexia nervosa begins, the better -so that a proper diagnosis and treatment plan can be begun. The treatment plan can often include a guide to navigating the world of social media with a recovered mindset.

Carefully crafted and created solutions for bulimia nervosa recovery must be tailored to address each individual’s circumstances and treatment needs. While many young people count on social media to stay connected to their support systems, a psychologically gentle treatment plan that focuses on high-frequency individual therapy provides the foundation for a recovery that can withstand the inevitable bumps that life — and social media — can deliver.