Social Media and Eating Disorders
Women and adolescents tend to weight control behaviours.
Social media is flooded with posts on “ideal” body shapes and images, weight control methods. Everyday we scroll down social media feeds and encounter posts entitled “How to diet?”, “How to stay fit?”, “How many calories should you burn per day?” Experts state that loads of websites willingly or unwillingly show eating disorder as a part of fashion and beauty perception, therefore, encouraging dangerous eating habits. Studies point out that eating disorders are often seen in adolescents and women, especially young girls belonging to professional groups such as models, dancers, and athletes.
Uskudar University NPİSTANBUL Brain Hospital Clinical Psychologist Ozgenur Taskin shares her viewpoint on the problems caused by the use of social media.
Posts on weight control behaviours
Clinical Psychologist Ozgenur Taskin points out that the use of social media is increasing due to pandemic. Recent staggering statistics have shown that social media posts about weight control behaviours and health in general are also very popular. However, experts and doctors warn us that even health-related information on the majority of channels and platforms can be misleading. Digital technology and fashion industry use air brush and digital enhancement to portray “an ideal person”.
Eating disorders are rooted in body dissatisfaction.
As we all know, social media may play a certain role in the prevalence of eating disorders. Researches on this field have revealed the evidence regarding the influence of the media on adolescents’ self-perception, body image and weight concerns. On the one hand, social media platforms help individuals with mood and eating disorders to share their feelings and experience, on the other hand, those disorders are in need of a qualified help. Recent statistics confirm that the diagnosis of an eating disorder is more common in young women and adolescents.
Distorted perception of beauty
Clinical Psychologist Ozgenur Taskin emphasizes that eating disorders are a group of psychiatric diseases with biological, psychological and socio-cultural dimensions. She continues: “None can disregard the fact that the social media trends on dieting affect especially young people. This influence is of great interest to physicians, educational specialists and custodians. Since the high-cost treatment of eating disorders is time-consuming, preventive strategies and actions are of great importance. The effect of exposure to such social media content including images of underweight androgynous-looking models, lead to negative mood, low self-esteem of young girls. We should attempt to understand underlying motivation for adolescents’ and young women’s wish to be thin. This makes woman to diet to lose weight or even practice unhealthy weight control patterns. They believe that they are overweight and want to lose weight in order to look like the figures in the media.
The psychologıst points out that there is a deterioration in healthy human body perceptions. That is why many individuals with eating disorders push the limits of reality. Ozgenur Taskin notes: “This situation is considered as a serious reasoning error and pathological denial. Statistically, we can say that this situation is more common in high school young girls, who succeeded in modelling, sports, etc. Apart from social media, there are pretty numerous factors and triggers that affect the debut of an eating disorder: sexual and physical abuse in childhood, anxiety and various mood disorders, overprotective or inadequate parental intervention. Adults should not forget that adolescents and children are more vulnerable to messages conveyed through the mass media.
Cases of eating disorders have increased recently
Uskudar University Clinical Psychologist Ozgenur Taskin sums it up: “The unconscious use of social media and the inability to cope with distractors may lead to serious psychiatric diseases”. Therefore, preventive measures need to be taken, families have great responsibilities. Parents could be powerful advocates for the promotion of healthy behaviours. Further, social media accounts of your children should be observed and controlled. Recently, it has been determined that one of the reasons for the increase in eating disorder cases in hospitals and psychiatry clinics is social media. If the person thinks that s/he is badly affected, he should take precautions. If s/he thinks that the measures s/he takes are insufficient, s/he should definitely get support from a specialist in mental health.