The Impact of Social Media on Eating Disorders


In the digital age, social media has become an inescapable facet of our daily lives. However, as its prevalence grows, so does its influence on our mental...

In the digital age, social media has become an inescapable facet of our daily lives. However, as its prevalence grows, so does its influence on our mental health. This is particularly evident in the realm of eating disorders. In this article, we explore the intersection of social media and eating disorders and suggest strategies for healthy navigation of the digital world.

Social media platforms can present both direct and indirect factors contributing to the development or exacerbation of eating disorders. These platforms often promote idealised body images, fostering comparison, dissatisfaction, and sometimes leading to disordered eating behaviours. A 2016 study showed that spending more time on Facebook was associated with higher levels of concern about body image among young women.

Moreover, the increasing phenomenon of “thinspiration” and “fitspiration” posts—images or messages that glorify thinness or extreme fitness—can lead to internalisation of unrealistic beauty standards. Additionally, pro-eating disorder communities exist on some platforms, encouraging unhealthy behaviours and normalising eating disorders.

However, it’s essential to recognise that social media is not an unequivocal evil; it is a tool that can be wielded for both harm and good. Many people find support, understanding, and camaraderie in online communities. For those suffering from eating disorders, these platforms can offer connection and reduce isolation, particularly when traditional support may be inaccessible.

The key lies in mitigating potential harm while maximising benefits. Here are some strategies:


Critically Engage with Social Media Content:

Users should approach social media with a critical eye, understanding that images may be manipulated and don’t represent the full reality. Encouraging media literacy and critical thinking skills can help mitigate the impact of harmful content.


Curate Your Feed:

Social media users should curate their feed to follow accounts promoting body positivity, self-love, and healthy living. It’s essential to diversify the body types and lifestyles portrayed in one’s feed, breaking away from the narrow and often unrealistic standards proliferated online.


Set Boundaries:

Encourage healthy use of social media, such as setting time limits, turning off notifications, or even taking social media “detoxes” to reduce its influence.


Seek Professional Help:

For those struggling with an eating disorder, professional help should be sought. Therapists, dietitians, and support groups can provide necessary help and resources.


If you would like to enquire about mental health care at Cardinal Clinic, you can call us on 01753 869755. Alternatively, if you wish to refer yourself for mental health care, you can complete our self referral form.

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*McManus, S., Meltzer, H., Brugha, T. S., Bebbington, P. E., & Jenkins, R. (2009). Adult psychiatric morbidity in England, 2007: results of a household survey.

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