photo of a girl about faced; suffering anorexia

Anorexia is a psychological disorder that develops from a complex web of different factors, including perfectionist tendencies, depression, genetics, and more. There’s one element that’s been at the spotlight recently, as the world and cultures become more and more digital — social media. Many people, especially parents who have teens who are constantly online, worry and ask the question: Can social media trigger anorexia? Sadly, a lot of experts believe so.

A Newsfeed of Perfect Bodies

Social media sites have made it easy for people to see the lives of their favorite celebrities. This didn’t just turn them into faithful fans of these A-listers. For some, it subconsciously fixed a standard for what the perfect life looks like — and that includes physical appearance. Unfortunately, most celebrities glamorize thinness, promoting crash dieting and pushing the body harder at the gym.

According to one study, the more a young woman uses Instagram, the greater the tendency to compare themselves to the celebrities they’re following. This then negatively affects women’s self-perception and body image. These are two crucial elements that put women at risk for anorexia and other eating disorders. Treatment for anorexia, like cognitive behavioral therapy, involves addressing these mental issues in patients.

A Hub for “Pro-Ana”

That is “pro-anorexia” supporters or those who promote the eating disorder. Pro-ana sites have been on the Internet for a long time, but social media has given them another channel to share their views.

For instance, there are lots of pro-ana groups on Facebook, in which people share tips and tricks on how they can further lose weight. Some also ride on the fitness hashtags on Instagram, like #thinspo (or thin inspiration). On Twitter, they initiate social media challenges, like 1 retweet = 1 hour of fasting.

Pro-ana believe that anorexia isn’t a destructive mental illness, but just merely a lifestyle. Health experts say that this thinking, along with their social media messages, are all dangerous because they could encourage anorexic behavior or make anorexics fall deeper into the pit of their disorder. This is true for people who also struggle with other mental illnesses, like depression.

Social media, with its enticing photos of thin celebrities and well-intentioned #fitspo hashtags, can cause a downward spiral for anorexics battling the disease. If you have a loved one suffering from the health problem, it may be helpful to protect them from this trigger.