Social media’s link to eating disorders

3 Mins read

If you type ‘thinspiration’ into any social media search bar you will find pictures that remind people of their goals to be thin. It was recently reported by Sky News that eating disorders are estimated to cost the UK economy £8 billon, while last year an article in the Independent said that anorexia is the most reported eating disorder to ChildLine.

Social media is thought to be one of the main causes of eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia in the twenty-first century as increasing numbers of young people are drawn into accounts that promote an unhealthy body image.

Instagram states in their guidelines that content promoting eating disorders will be removed from their platform: “Instagram is a place where people can share their lives with others through photographs, any account found encouraging or urging users to embrace anorexia, bulimia, or other eating disorders; or to cut, harm themselves, or commit suicide will result in a disabled account without warning.”

[pullquote align=”right”]”Too much of a good thing is bad for you. Life is and always has been about moderation.” – Kukhan[/pullquote]Although sites do their best to remove content that may put their users at risk, there are still hundreds of fitness accounts and groups that contain unhealthy images.

Kukhan, a 27 year-old follower of fitness groups on Instagram, says: “I think it’s bitter sweet. It’s great for inspiring people to be health conscious and spreading new and tried ways of keeping fit, but it also leads to extremes. It can make oneself become insecure and lead to fads like the ‘thinspiration’ website, which promotes eating disorders. It’s a thin line to walk on.”

Kukhan went on to give his personal view of social media getting the criticism for pressuring young adults to be skinny and causing eating disorders such as anorexia.

“Social media is there for people to express their opinions and feelings freely with no repercussions but there should always be limitations put in place to protect the general population. Eating disorders are crippling people and anything that promotes it should be monitored if not stopped all together,” says Kukhan.

Kukhan believes that following these fitness groups on social media is not unhealthy, but it definitely can be when you obsess over them: “too much of a good thing is bad for you. Life is and always has been about moderation.”

Emmy Gilmour, the founder and clinical director of The Recover Clinic says the main types of eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder; which is apparently the most popular, orthorexia and EDNOS.

[pullquote align=”right”]”People need to believe that recovery is possible and that they can do it.” – Emmy Gilmour[/pullquote]She says there are a number of symptoms that a sufferer of an eating disorder will experience: “People suffer with a combination of both physical and emotional symptoms as a result of suffering with eating disorders.

“This would include; their mood being affected dramatically by how much they weigh, restricting the amount of food they’re eating, they may lose control sometimes over how much they’re eating, they may overspend on food or steal food, they may make themselves sick after eating, they may over-exercise in order to lose weight, they might obsess about calories in food or become overly concerned with only eating ‘healthy’ food, they might experience thinning hair and if a woman they might no longer get a period,” she explains.

Emmy, who has been working with the sufferers of eating disorders for nearly 15 years said that young people can avoid being affected by an eating disorder by developing different and healthy ways of confronting and coping with their emotions: “We teach all of our clients to meditate and to use mindfulness as part of their daily routines.”

Along with meditation, she helps her clients to develop compassionate and loving relationships with themselves. She also encourages them to replace destructive coping strategies with tools that are more healthy and helpful. “People need to believe that recovery is possible and that they can do it,” she adds.

To those suffering from eating disorders, Emmy has a suggestion: “Seek help. Don’t think that things will just get better – that’s unlikely. Speak to a specialist and get advice about how you can start working towards a life in recovery.”


Featured image by Johanna Albert via Flickr

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