Can Social Media Exacerbate Eating Disorders?

Can Social Media Exacerbate Eating Disorders?

Eating disorders are some of the most common psychological disorders in the world, and while they mostly affect women, men struggle with eating disorders as well. These issues, including bulimia, anorexia and binge eating disorders can be incredibly dangerous and possibly even deadly. Today, social media is playing a major role in the development and continuation of eating disorders worldwide, as outlets such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are exacerbating symptoms.

For starters, all of these commonly used social media outlets (while originally developed to keep people connected), have quickly turned into devices that encourage people to compare their lives and bodies to those of friends and strangers. It can be easy to look at someone else’s pictures and start to feel that you are not as attractive, thin, fit or successful. This aspect of social media can be even more troubling if the person looking at these images is also taking note of how many comments, likes, retweets, etc. other people’s photos receive. A great deal of social media has to do with acceptance by peers, so if someone with an eating disorder is not getting similar recognition as someone, he or she might fall more deeply into compulsive behaviors to obtain similar acceptance.

Another way that social media exacerbates eating disorders is by putting every aspect of our lives on display. This puts pressure on individuals to ensure that they look perfect all the time. For example, an individual might spend hours trying to take the perfect “selfie” that doesn’t make her look overweight, but find that she can never look skinny enough. This can begin to fuel feelings of shame, guilt and low-self esteem, all of which can lead to the exacerbation of an eating disorder.

Between striving to be socially acceptable and look perfect all the time, an individual who has a pre-existing eating disorder is in danger of having his or her symptoms exacerbated by the use of social media. An eating disorder, like a technology addiction, is often fueled by compulsive behaviors and reactions. As a result, it is important to get treatment for both of these issues so that eating disorders and technology addictions can be treated properly.

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