Eating disorders are a mental health problem that need to be seriously addressed by American society and individuals. According to recent statistics, approximately 9 percent of the population of the United States will develop an eating disorder during their life. Eating disorders are potentially fatal and lead to more than 10,000 deaths every year. More than a quarter of people who have an eating disorder will attempt to take their own life.
Eating disorders are also more prevalent among women and gay men, who are up to seven times more likely to develop an eating disorder than straight men.
In this increasingly technological age, it’s easier to get more information about eating disorders so you can help friends or family. Learn what constitutes an eating order and how they’re connected with social media.
What is an Eating Disorder?
There’s a huge difference between watching what you eat and having an eating disorder. Just because you prefer parboiled brown rice and like salads most of the time doesn’t mean you have a problem. An eating disorder is a legitimate mental health condition, not a personal preference.
Eating disorders manifest as illnesses that severely disrupt the eating behaviors of people, as well as thoughts and emotions connected with food consumption. Eating disorders create a severe fear of weight gain and getting fat. They also tend to have low self-esteem and regularly criticize themselves for their behavior and body type. Eating disorders routinely develop alongside other disorders like obsessive compulsive disorder, substance abuse and anxiety.
If you know someone who suffers from an eating disorder, they need professional help as soon as possible. Without eating disorder counseling or strategies such as a bulimia recovery plan, people with can develop severe health problems like heart disorders and malnutrition.
Social Media and Eating Disorders
Although some research suggests that genetics has a substantial effect on eating disorders, societal factors are still a major instigator. Studies have shown that social media is intricately linked with eating disorders. In particular, photo and video sharing platform Instagram has connected with increasing the symptoms of eating disorders. Here’s a few reasons Instagram is harmful to people with eating disorders.
- Unrealistic Body Standards
Instagram is full of models and celebrities whose job it is to stay fit and attractive. These influencers are among the most visible people on the platform. According to a study, even just 30 minutes of browsing through celebrity feeds on Instagram resulted in women being unhappy with their bodies. Imagine the mental pressure from trawling through Instagram for hours on end and constantly bombarded with pictures of people with fantastic bodies.
What you need to remember is that celebrities have the time and resources to stay attractive. Being pretty or fit is part of their job description. Comparing yourself to their standard of beauty is unhelpful and unhealthy.
- Societal Pressure
Who people follow in Instagram have an effect on their behavior. If you follow food lovers and people who like experimenting in their kitchen, you’ll naturally be tempted to dabble in cooking. But if your feed is full of people exercising, watching their weight and counting calories, you may feel pressured to do the same. This could lead to an obsession with keeping up with these people’s Instagram feeds.
However, you should understand that people live in different circumstances and you shouldn’t feel like you have to do something just because everyone seems like they’re doing it. Maybe the people you follow have more free time to workout, or they’ve had the benefit of consulting a nutritionist about their diet.
- Harmful Networks
Social media platforms such as Instagram are often home to wonderful support groups who can point people to the right information and offer their kindness. However, social media platforms can also harbor harmful networks that support each people’s destructive behaviors and thoughts. One investigation in the UK uncovered a network of children, some as young as 13 years old, encouraging each other to lose weight, sometimes in drastic and unhealthy methods.
The best way to avoid such networks is to not engage with them in the first place. If you notice that the people you follow or follow you on Instagram are encouraging your unhealthy behaviors or provoking someone you know to do the same, unfollow and block them. You need to remove toxic influences form your life if you hope to recover.
Instagram can be a place filled with beauty, but it’s good to remember that beauty comes in different forms and sizes. Learn to appreciate yourself and understand that what you see on social media isn’t always the healthy, no matter what fabulous filter or catchy hashtag it’s got.