Anorexia, bulimia, hyperphagia: social networks “can have an aggravating effect” on eating disorders

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For many, the images of “ideal body” that circulate on social networks can be a source of complex and suffering, and sometimes contribute to the emergence of eating disorders.

Have a positive view of your body, accept yourself as you are. This was the message initially conveyed by the current called, in good French, “body positive”. In recent years, this expression has gained momentum to encourage everyone to accept themselves as they are. If the original goal is laudable, it has unfortunately been diverted since it was taken over by industries that convey the idea that a thin body is an ideal to achieve and would make you happy.

However, on social networks, as explained by Valentin Flaudias, lecturer in clinical psychology at the University of Nantes, ‚Äúthis ideal is used in many publications, in particular on the accounts of those who are called influencers. The initial idea is distorted, in the end, you have to love yourself as you are but above all as you should be. He cites the example of an Instagramer who dedicates her account to sport: “She used the expression ‘body positive’ while encouraging people who follow her to fight against their ‘excess fat’. that the movement has taken on a guilt-inducing balance.”

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A turn that is all the more problematic since if social networks are not a sufficient element to trigger eating disorders, studies on the subject tend to show that their use aggravates and increases these diseases, details Valentin Flaudias.

1 million people

In France, it is estimated today that one million people suffer from anorexia nervosa, bulimia or binge eating disorder, which are the three eating disorders. Nevertheless, 50% of these people would not be aware, for lack of diagnosis. Hence the interest of having an increased vigilance on the use of social networks. The idea, according to Valentin Flaudias, is to learn how to select the accounts that really interest us, in other words to learn how to have a healthy use of these applications.

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The psychologist encourages his patients with eating disorders to take a step back from social networks by asking themselves the following questions: which accounts do you follow? Which ones do you look at for pleasure or mechanically? How much time do you spend on social media each day? Do you think you can cut 5 minutes weekly or daily? The objective is to identify the effects of these applications. Especially since, as we know, these are based on algorithms which offer content according to what we are looking at, thus confining the user to certain themes.

As Laure Mesquida, a child psychiatrist from Toulouse, points out, “for many young people who suffer from eating disorders, their self-esteem is practically no longer based on the image they have of their body. We work with them to understand that the body ‘has value not only through the image it sends back”.

Even if on social networks, people with eating disorders can find support and recreate social ties, Valentin Flaudias warns that this can also “maintain the pathology if these patients are identified only by their disorder, which can then trigger other problems”. Be that as it may, he advocates making everyone aware of the use of social networks and their possible effects.

If you think you are suffering from an ED, do not hesitate to seek help from the national helpline reachable on 0 8100 370 37 or from an association near you, listed here by the French Anorexia Federation Bulimia.

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