The Influence of Social Media on Adolescent Eating Disorders

Woman Using Social Media

Contributor: Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC, Special Projects Coordinator at Eating Disorder Hope/Addiction Hope

Thanks to greater research, awareness, and advocacy in the eating disorder field, we understand many of the different factors that interplay in the development of these mental illnesses. While many stigmas still remain about eating disorders, educating about the truths of eating disorders can help break many of the stereotypes that still exist, break shame, and encourage individuals to seek out help for these psychiatric illnesses.

One of the common misunderstandings about eating disorders is that social influences are to blame for these illnesses. While environmental factors certainly play a part, they cannot be solely responsible for the development of an eating disorder. However, for individuals who are biologically susceptible to these psychiatric illnesses, social influences can trigger and perpetuate the progression of an eating disorder.

Social Media Can Trigger an Eating Disorder

Social media has evolved into one of the greatest communication sources of our time, and there is no doubt that the presence of the internet has changed the manner in which we interact and engage with one another.

Social media sites allow today’s youth the opportunity to connect with others in multiple platforms and venues. Because engaging in various forms of social media has become a routine activity for adolescents today, it is important to consider how this can potentially impact an adolescent susceptible to an eating disorder.

Understanding the Power of Social Media

It is important to understand that adolescent’s are still in a phase of brain development and emotional regulation and often susceptible to peer pressure. Reading of dieting or frequently being exposed to images that may provoke body image concerns can potentially be provoking among adolescents, particularly those who are predisposed to developing an eating disorder.

While it is not possible to filter everything, this is an opportunity for parents and caregivers to understand the power of social media as to have meaningful conversations with loved ones about unsafe practices and self-destructive behaviors.

Social media interactions are often an extension of an adolescent’s life, so being aware of online use as well as the issues that children today may be facing online is an important part of parenting.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

If you are a parent of an adolescent, what are some of the ways in which you engage your child about their online use and social interactions via social media?

Crystal Headshot 2Crystal is a Masters-level Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) with a specialty focus in eating disorders, maternal/child health and wellness, and intuitive eating. Combining clinical experience with a love of social media and writing, Crystal serves as the Special Projects Coordinator for Eating Disorder Hope/Addiction Hope, where her passion to help others find recovery and healing is integrated into each part of her work.

As a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, Crystal has dedicated her career to helping others establish a healthy relationship with food and body through her work with EDH/AH and nutrition private practice.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on January 24, 2016
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