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  • Staff Writer

Using Social Media in Eating Disorder Recovery

For young adults, social media is often a very big part of life. It can be the way they stay in touch with friends, keep up with what their family is up to, and more. However, while tempting, using social media can cause problems while in eating disorder recovery. Young adults need to be aware of triggers that are commonly found on social media. This includes images about food and body image. Fortunately, there are ways to manage social media use that can help young adults to stay connected while minimizing their risk of being triggered. Working with a team of providers is the best way for young adults to learn and practice these skills while receiving support.

All About Eating Disorder Recovery

Eating disorders are serious medical illnesses that affect a person's eating behavior. There are many types of eating disorders, including:

  • Anorexia nervosa

  • Bulimia nervosa

  • Binge eating disorder

It is common for young adults to be concerned about their weight and looks. However, struggling with an eating disorder is more than paying attention to their weight. It is a fixation or obsession that leads to controlling their food. Young adults who are struggling with an eating disorder do not have a choice to change their behavior and require professional treatment to heal.

However, young adults can recover from an eating disorder. Effective treatment looks different for each young adult. However, it often includes therapy, working with a dietitian or nutritionist, medication, and/or medical care. While young adults might notice immediate changes from treatment, eating disorder recovery takes time and relapses are not uncommon. Therefore, managing their environment to stay on the path of recovery is important.

Tips for Using Social Media in Eating Disorder Recovery

Young adults' lives are frequently very tied to social media. While it can provide support and community, it can also cause problems in eating disorder recovery. Many young adults who have had an eating disorder relapse. Common triggers include imagery about food, weight, or eating choices.

Research has shown that social media helps individuals in eating disorder recovery to feel a sense of belonging, community, and support. However, their finding indicates that moderation is necessary to decrease harm. Therefore, young adults in eating disorder recovery need to take steps to adjust their social media usage. This includes improving awareness, taking breaks, and adjusting what is visible.

Improving Awareness

A young adult who is in eating disorder recovery is on the path to healing. However, fully recovering from an eating disorder can take months or years. Therefore, they need to be careful of what can create relapse.

Social media exposure can bring up the thoughts and feelings associated with eating. On social media, many accounts and photos reference beliefs around eating and make judgments about other people's choices. However, every individual will have different triggers that create issues for them.

Improving awareness is the first step to knowing how to use social media without harm to recovery. Young adults who are struggling with social media use can try using a journal to keep track of how they feel before and after viewing different items. Additionally, working with a therapist or coach can also help young adults to learn about what is positive and negative for them.

Taking Breaks

Awareness is a simple but challenging skill because humans can lie to themselves. For young adults who are wanting to use social media but are unsure if it is negatively affecting their recovery from an eating disorder, a good option is to take a break. When an individual takes a break, even for a day, they can see more clearly how they feel without the presence of social media.

Taking a break will not always result in a single emotion. For many young adults, it will be a mixture of feelings and is completely normal. If taking a break seems impossible, it can help to remember that it is not forever. Setting up a time frame for a break can decrease stress and give a young adult more information on the effects.

Adjusting What Is Visible

Social media can be very personalized. For young adults in eating disorder recovery, this is very helpful. Once young adults improve their awareness of what part of social media is helpful and what is harmful, they can make adjustments. Adjusting the accounts that they follow and show up on their scroll is one way that will change what is visible regularly. Additionally, unfollowing or blocking content that is triggering or harmful can also help.

Adjusting what is visible can be difficult. However, young adults who are in recovery from an eating disorder need to prioritize themselves. When they set their mental and physical health as a priority, they are more able to make changes that will make a big difference. Getting help from a professional is the best choice. They can help young adults to choose what to avoid and improve their understanding of their unique needs.

For young adults, social media can be a major aspect of one's social life. However, for young adults who are recovering from an eating disorder, social media can be a risk factor for triggers. Fortunately, social media allows for many adjustments that can help young adults to choose their content. At Northwest College Support, we understand that eating disorders are complex and unique to each person. We offer eating disorder recovery along with other options that can support young adults in their transition into adulthood. To learn more about our programs, and the campus in Boise, ID, or to speak with a staff member, call us today at (877) 485-2776

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