Social Media's Impact on Eating Disorders

February 28, 2019

The statistics are alarming: At least 30 million people suffer from an eating disorder in the United States.

“The truth is, eating disorders are becoming more and more common and can affect an individual from any sex, age, race and economic class,” said Mary Ann Osborn, a Registered Dietitian at BSA Outpatient Therapy Services.

Although biological, psychological and environmental factors may increase a person’s likelihood of developing an eating disorder, the best-known environmental contributor to the development of eating disorders is the sociocultural idealization of thinness.

“You can’t really look anywhere without seeing something or someone pop-up encouraging you to look your best, lose weight, buy supplements or try a fat burning diet or exercise routine,” Osborn explained.

One contributor of sociocultural idealization of thinness is social media outlets. According to Osborn, social networking platforms can have a strong influence on a person’s mental health, including their relationship with food and fear of gaining weight.

It’s easy for social media users to become fixated on the ‘ideal body type’ and compare themselves to others,” Osborn shared.

According to research conducted by The National Center for Biotechnology Information, “media is a causal risk factor for the development of eating disorders and has a strong influence on a person’s body dissatisfaction, eating patterns and poor self-concept.”

Early treatment is essential for those struggling with an eating disorder.

“The sooner the eating disorder is recognized and a patient gets into the right treatment, the better the outcome,” shared Osborn.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, help is available. To register online for an appointment with a BSA Outpatient Therapy Services Registered Dietitian, click here. To contact the National Eating Disorder Association Hotline, call (800) 931-2237.