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  • Dr, Tuesday Pearson

7 Ways How Social Media Can Trigger Eating Disorder

Social media is constantly booming on the internet, and there are many ways it's changing people's lives. You can use this device in your hand to learn about anything and also adapt habits. It's a great tool to connect with people anywhere, anytime. Our lives can be on full display as little or as much as we choose. Not only is it negatively and positively affecting our lives, but also changing the way we eat. No wonder social media has been a cause of eating disorders in many people.

What is Eating Disorder?

An eating disorder is a severe disturbance in eating behavior/pattern which results in a fatal condition. In the majority of cases, people adapt to this eating disorder by overthinking their body shape, weight, and desire for food. It leads to nutritional deficiencies, which further affect your bones, teeth, cardiac system, oral cavity, and gastrointestinal system.

Usually, young people and adolescents are exposed to this kind of disorder, but it's not limited to a certain age. Anyone, at any age, can be a victim of eating disorders without realizing it. The most common eating disorders are anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and binge-eating disorder.

Type of Eating Disorders

Anorexia Nervosa

This type of eating disorder develops when people dramatically and consciously limit their food intake, thinking they'll gain weight. It goes to a level where they fall victim to severe health conditions that occur due to excess weight loss. The common cause behind this eating disorder is a lack of adequate knowledge about your BMI.

Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia nervosa occurs when people occasionally eat large amounts of food and try to cut out extra calories in unhealthy ways. This often happens because people start feeling guilty of eating a large amount of food unhealthily and then trying to compensate for it. They either force themselves to vomit, exercise heavily, stop eating for a day or two, or use laxatives to get that food out of their system. People with bulimia nervosa are usually slightly overweight, but they fear becoming obese because of food.

Binge-Eating Disorder

This is a common type of trigger eating disorder that everyone is familiar with. Binge-eating disorder is when you have developed a habit of regularly overeating and do nothing to get rid of excess calories building up in your body. You're showing no symptoms of bulimia nervosa as you're not doing anything to get rid of extra calories in your body. It doesn't necessarily mean that you're binge-eating every day, as it can also happen once a week.

7 Ways How Social Media Can Trigger Eating Disorder

Social Media and Diet Culture

“Diet culture” is when people in a society start to value and idolize thinness, appearance, and shape above their health and well-being. “Diet culture” and “fat talk” have become so common on social media that disordered eating behaviors occur without conscious realization. Instead of people being concerned about their eating disorders like skipping meals, following diet trends, restricting calories, and excessively exercising, they don't realize the harm they're doing to their health. Thus, The spread of “culture” and “social media” can encourage negative behavior; these can be extended to eating disorders.

An Unrealistic Perception of Body Image

As soon as we log into our social media network, we are flooded with countless portraits of influencers, celebrities, and models flaunting their picture-perfect body images. Many people show their best and "PERFECT" photos to make others perceive them as reality. This subtly trigger of eating disorder in young people into believing that only slim and thin bodies can be famous on social media.

It Affects a Woman’s Menstrual Cycle

Eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, are most likely to affect a woman's menstrual cycle. If a woman restricts her calorie intake to a level that she experiences extreme loss of body weight, it leads to amenorrhea. Your menstruation stops due to this condition. Bulimia, as we explained above, is another eating disorder that creates a hormonal imbalance, which results in irregular and missed periods. By falling victim to these eating disorders, you're not only choosing poor mental and physical health but also disturbing your menstrual cycle.

Minimal In-Person Interactions

Adolescents with eating disorders, especially those with bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder, often have self-reported eating disorders. This is partly because they are ashamed of their behavior and somewhat because they suffer from depression, an emotion similar to eating disorders.

It Blurs the Concept of Disorders

You start to question yourself if an eating disorder is even a real thing. There are numerous diet trends going viral on social media, and we get confused about what to follow. We don’t even bother taking an eating disorder test and assume that what others are doing is correct.

Feelings of Exclusion

Recently, there was a social experiment conducted where adults who have successfully recovered from eating disorders stated that they have a very limited social circle. On the other hand, there's another study posted on social media showing the same data where individuals were able to accomplish recovery from eating disorders with the help of their social interactions. Social media can easily make anyone feel excluded because when you see your friends and others enjoying their feeds, it makes you feel isolated that you aren't able to do those things. Thoughts and feelings like “I'm not pretty/good/thin enough, or they'll invite me over” can be harmful, as can eating a lot or not eating at all to fit in.


According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), 65 percent of people with an eating disorder say bullying is the cause. Social media provides a platform for bullies to take their attacks beyond the closed school. Although no studies have been published, research proves cyberbullying is more damaging than regular “bullying."

Because young people with eating disorders are particularly vulnerable to bullying, and if bullying occurs, the effects can be devastating. Cyberbullying can lead to depression, social anxiety, low or no self-worth, and fear, all of which lie at the root of eating disorders.


How has the media contributed to eating disorders?

Whichever social media channel you open, you'll find everyone displays an "ideal" female body in every advertisement. This has led to eating disorders in women because it is linked with our mind assuming and believing a particular connection between social media and body positivity. This same applies to men being idealized as handsome and muscular.

What is ED recovery?

ED recovery means when you're putting an end to what trigger eating disorder in you. You change your perception, thoughts, feelings, and behavior due to improved physical and psychological well-being. On the other hand, ED recovery can also mean that you're in an ongoing process of adopting a healthy lifestyle by understanding how much amount of food your body needs to function and everything else is excess.

Is polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) associated with eating disorders?

Yes, women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) are at a higher risk of developing eating disorders due to mental, hormonal, and metabolic factors.

Is social media a cause behind prevalent eating disorders among children?

Eating disorders result from changes in eating habits that adversely affect a person's body and mind. Some recent evidence shows that social media use may affect the eating habits of children and adolescents, leading to unhealthy eating habits.

The Bottom Line

We're not denying the fact that social media has tons of positive effects on humans, and it's entirely up to us not to let it trigger disorders in our minds. It often happens due to poor mental and physical health, which makes it easier for social media to manipulate us.

The best way to refrain from getting influenced by social media is to protect your well-being, practice mindfulness, and follow only positive channels that upload body-positive content. As long as you're following a healthy lifestyle and maintaining a positive body image, nothing can trigger your brain to an unhealthy path. Sometimes, we feel there should be an eating disorder hotline. You can also help others identify these eating disorder triggers and show them ways for coping skills for eating disorders.

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