Eating disorders are one of the most dangerous psychological disorders, with over 10,000 deaths in the United States a year. They’re extremely serious both mental and physical illnesses that can affect people of all different genders, ages, races, religions, body shapes, and weights. While impacting your body’s ability to get appropriate nutrition, the majority of eating disorders surround the idea of eating in a manner where there is an attempt to alter your body size, weight, or shape. Eating disorders frequently develop in the teen or adolescent years; however, it is still possible to develop one at any stage of your life. Some of the most common eating disorders are Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, and Binge Eating Disorder. Anorexia involves the strong desire to achieve or maintain a certain body weight, while people with Binge Eating Disorder and Bulimia Nervosa frequently feel that they lose control over what they eat. While the cause of eating disorders is unknown, there are different factors affecting the rise of an ED. All of the biological, cognitive, and sociocultural factors play into where this illness begins. As I explain further in detail later, social media has been proven to be one of the sociocultural factors affecting the cause of an eating disorder. As my research developed, I learned more about the dangers of both social media and eating disorders. So, continue reading to find out how they’re connected!
The Dangers of an Eating Disorder
Eating disorders are potentially life-threatening. When someone is consuming too few calories, particularly for an extended period of time, they can do serious, permanent damage to their bodies. When you aren’t getting enough nutrients, your body must break down its own tissue for energy. Malnutrition can have very serious consequences such as slowed-down heart rate, immune system failure, anemia, possible kidney failure, and more. Your cardiovascular system suffers immensely because purging can cause a sufficient amount of electrolytes, a lowered ability for the body to conserve energy, and a reduced pulse. The gastrointestinal system can experience side effects such as severe stomach pain, vomiting, blood sugar fluctuations, infections, blocked intestines, a possible ruptured stomach, and more. While I only named a few, there is an extensive list of eating disorder side effects and all with possibly life-threatening situations.
So, how does social media play into this?
With an average of 7.5 hours a day on social media, according to NEDA, National Eating Disorder Association, teens have been spending more time than ever on social media. And according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 75% of kids from ages 13-17 are active on social media. NEDA states that there is a direct correlation between exposure to the thin ideal to body dissatisfaction. A thin ideal has been internalized specifically among women. Of American elementary school girls who read magazines, 69% say that the pictures influence their concept of ideal body shape, which is only getting worse with the frequent rise of social media. And 47% of elementary school girls say that the pictures inspire them to lose weight (Martin, 2010). Social media is clearly an impactful part of many people’s lives so it’s extremely important to become aware of the possible outcomes and consequences. The stigmatization around eating disorders and body positivity awareness has only made this problem worse.
I know, trying to get people to leave social media is near impossible, particularly with my targeted audience being teenagers on social media. However, with the right education and awareness, we can minimize the negative impact social media has on its users. On social media, I want there to be more body positivity shown. More importantly, I would love for the consumers of sites like Instagram to understand the dangers and risks of eating disorders. Everyone’s body is different and that is a message I hope to spread as far as I can. Intended for my community and anyone else who would come across it, I would love to create a social media account advocating for body positivity. Social media is filled with toxic, harmful content and I feel that creating a positive space would benefit not only myself but many others. As my research findings have shown, the more time you spend on social media, the more harmful it is for your self-esteem. If any of the content people are seeing is changed, possibly social media wouldn’t be as harmful as it is to the mind.
How can you help?
Please answer these questions in the comments below:
- How can you work to go against the ideal body image created on social media?
- Can you help people around you remain healthy? How?
- How can you educate others around you about the dangers of eating disorders?
Here are my citations. Thanks for interacting! https://docs.google.com/document/d/1WEhSLNQJgu7RzLrUtRRkeQUhvYuA3pbitbZjdIqCj7A/edit?usp=sharing