Bulimia Nervosa and Social Media – a Dangerous Duo

Bulimia Nervosa and Social Media – a Dangerous Duo

Recently, the National Institute of Health’s National Library of Medicine published a study that established a relationship between the use of social media and the incidence eating disorders among young people in the USA. Studies performed by national psychiatric institutions indicate that up to 2.6 percent of the population will need treatment for bulimia nervosa or another eating disorder by the time they reach 20 years old. This research showed a relationship between eating disorders, self-image (a common contributing factor for eating disorders), and social media in a sample of about 1800 adults aged 19 to 25.

For this reason, modern bulimia nervosa treatment centers have begun to take social media into account. In cases where self-image is impaired and individuals compare themselves to the “beautiful people” they see on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, social media can be a strong triggering factor in the rise of bulimia nervosa and other eating disorders.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Bulimia Nervosa?

Although it’s relatively well-known, it’s important to outline the signs and symptoms of bulimia nervosa. In some situations, people might be confused about the difference between bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa. Some aspects of bulimia nervosa may be present in other eating disorders, such as binge eating episodes, which of course are found in binge eating disorder.

For an eating disorder to be classified as bulimia nervosa, the DSM-5 (the official listing of mental health disorders) requires certain criteria. The most prominent behavioral symptom is repeated and regular binge eating episodes, usually in secret, and often accompanied by feelings of guilt or shame about the caloric intake. This is coupled with a lack of control concerning being able to stop or control how much or what is being eaten.

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Binge eating episodes are followed by purging. Purging methods, such as calorie restriction or fasting after a binge eating episode, self-induced vomiting (the classic behavior symptom), excessive exercise, or the misuse of diuretics, laxatives and other purging medicines, are used as a way to offset potential weight gain. These behaviors must both occur at least once a week for three months, on average.

Another symptom that relates to bulimia nervosa is a poor, negative, or distorted body image – thinking they are “fat” or “ugly.”  As we’ll see, this directly relates to social media in many cases.

Other signs of bulimia nervosa can be the presence of compulsive dieting, an obsession with weight loss and the controlled intake of food. The signs of purging and binge eating episodes, like the smell of vomit or visiting the bathroom frequently right after eating, food wrappers or hidden food, or boxes of diuretics and/or laxatives – all these indicate a possible struggle with bulimia nervosa.

Bulimia Nervosa Treatment And Social Media

Social media’s impact on self-image and self-esteem is powerful and potentially destructive. While social media helps millions of people connect with friends and built communities, it can also be a source of harassment, social pressure, and bullying. On the whole, social media can be a positive influence, but at-risk people should be careful.

The flip side of the positives of social media are the ways it has been used to bully young people into doing and feeling like they aren’t living up to society’s expectations of them. In some ways, because the influencers and models they look up to are “real people,” social media can be even more dangerous than the traditional media.Promoting a focus on “thinness” can influence eating disorders because someone like an Instagram model can interact with the person they’re marketing to, unlike an actor in a movie.

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Social media can influence the development of eating disorders, but it’s not the be all, end all of the situation. A proper diagnosis and early intervention are key in addressing body image issues and the symptoms of bulimia nervosa. It’s wise to secure a treatment plan from an accredited facility sooner rather than later. During this treatment, body image distortions, anxiety, depression or other co-occurring issues can also be addressed.

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