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Social Media: A Catalyst for Eating Disorder Recovery?


 
We live in a media driven culture with an endless supply of TV shows, internet sites, and phone apps to keep us busy every minute. These platforms are used to deliver messages meant to persuade, inspire, and entertain. Many of these messages contain images of men and women airbrushed to perfection….and it is that very image of perfection that haunts us as we study our own bodies and make comparisons.
 
To say that the internet has influenced body image is an understatement. In recent years, the rise of pro-anorexia and pro-bulimia websites has glorified eating disorders and praised the behaviors that keep sufferers locked in the illness. The Social Issues Research Centre (www.sirc.org) reports that these “pro-ana” websites target individuals who consider their eating disorders to be lifestyles, something to maintain and celebrate. Users share tips on how to engage behaviors and provide support for each other’s illnesses. For individuals who are in recovery, websites like this can be seriously detrimental. Some people in recovery refuse to engage in social media at all, citing the prevalence of hashtags like #thighgap and #thinspogram as just a few of many reasons to shelter themselves from the social media revolution. USA Today (www.usatoday.com) shares the story of Donna, who is in recovery from bulimia. Afraid to expose herself to the kinds of comparisons that fueled her illness, Donna has decided to stay away from popular social media sites like Facebook and Instagram.
 
While it’s clear that social media and pro-eating disorder websites have played a part in our global obsession with obtaining perfection, more and more websites  dedicated to positive body image and recovery are beginning to pop up. Someone searching for eating disorder tips may stumble upon a recovery website or blog and be drawn into a story of hope….leading to the inspiration to begin recovery. The National Eating Disorders Association (www.nationaleatingdisorders.org) shares the story of one woman who came across the NEDA website in her search for a pro-eating disorder community….a lucky accident that turned out to be the catalyst for her recovery. Nonprofit organizations dedicated to awareness and advocacy use the power of the internet to spread positive body image messages. Eating disorder treatment centers are also getting involved in the awareness movement, offering blogs, webinars, and professional events designed to educate and inspire.
 
Instagram is also proving to be a powerful recovery tool. An online photo-sharing service, Instagram users can visually communicate their lives to their followers. Some individuals in recovery have turned their Instagram accounts into recovery accounts. The Atlantic (www.theatlantic.com) describes this type of account as a place where users can gain support while maintaining as much anonymity as they would like. Some people don’t use their real names, and others find that it’s easier to open up and share initially in an online environment. Recovery accounts document the progress users are making through pictures of meals, inspirational messages, and even pictures of users’ bodies as they work toward weight restoration. Support from followers during the recovery journey can be motivating and provide comfort during difficult periods.
 
Although social media can be a positive recovery tool, users must be vigilant and pay attention to their triggers. Any concerning thoughts and behaviors should be taken seriously and addressed with a treatment team.
 
 
Totally In Control: The Rise of Pro-Ana/Pro-Mia Websites. Social Issues Research Centre, www.sirc.org
 
Rojas, M. (2014). Social Media Helps Fuel Some Eating Disorders. USA Today, www.usatoday.com
 
Kay, J. (2014). How Social Media Led Me to Recovery. National Eating Disorders Association, www.nationaleatingdisorders.org
 
Mirhashem, M. (2015). Overcoming an Eating Disorder with Instagram. The Atlantic, www.theatlantic.com
 

 

Elephant in the Room

[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][vc_social_links size=”normal” email=”” facebook=”www.facebook.com/prosperityedwell.com” twitter=”@ProspEDWELL” google=”” linkedin=”https://www.linkedin.com/in/heatherbprosperity” youtube=”” flickr=”” instagram=”” behance=”” pinterest=”” skype=”” tumblr=”” dribbble=”” vk=”” rss=””]I feel it, do you feel it? That uncomfortable silence and sense of dis-ease that comes when you or someone you love is suffering, but no one is talking about it. Not with a broken arm, or with cancer, or with just a rough day full of identifiable little inconveniences. This suffering is all-together different, it’s silent, because we are silent, it’s the elephant in the room… mental illness.

There is a definitive shift in the air, we are as a nation focusing more on emotional wellness and preventative care than ever before. Part of this is because people were tired of hiding, of suffering silently, and part is a result of the natural connectivity that recent technology provides. We are unveiling ourselves in a society that can be both supportive and condemning. In short, this unveiling is terrifying, not knowing what you are going to get once your vulnerability is out and you’re left exposed to the harsh voices of the masses. Despite this, the unveiling is critical to the wellness of the individual and community as a whole. Talking about the real issues takes away their power and helps us become better advocates for ourselves and for others who need a strong voice.

The Reality:

Mental health problems affect nearly every family in America, and by extension, nearly every family in your community.

The Good News:

  • Recovery is possible! There are many successful interventions, treatments, and services available to people with mental health problems.

The Bad News:

  • Many people with mental health problems do not seek or receive treatment because of stigma, fear, or lack of awareness of resources

The facts below are intended to arm you*:

  • 1:4 Adults suffer with mental illness
  • There are over 200 conditions classified as mental illness
  • 1:20 Americans has a significant mental illness (Depression, Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder)
  • 50% of all mental health disorders show their first signs before 14 years of age; 75% of all mental health disorders show their first signs before 24 years of age
  • Those with mental illnesses are 10X more likely to be victims of violent crime
  • Only 20% of children receive treatment for their mental health diagnosis; Only 38% of adults receive treatment for their mental health diagnosis
  • In 2011, 8 million adults reported dual mental health and substance abuse disorders
  • 45% of people with one diagnosis will meet the criteria for having another 2 disorders
  • Mental health and substance abuse disorders, that are untreated lead to more deaths than breast cancer, HIV/AIDS, and traffic accidents combined.

Stigma hurts everyone!

stigma pic

Mental health disorders do not have a single cause (many factors contribute to mental illness and emotional wellness). Stigma is a major barrier to treatment, i.e., people who suffer with mental illness do not seek treatment, for fear of discrimination or lack of understanding about mental illness.

Stigma Contributes to Which can result in
    • Negative Stereotypes
    • Worsening of symptoms
    • Shame
    • Acting out
    • Isolation
    • Self-harm
    • Discrimination
    • Self-medication

 

Not seeking treatment can prolong the suffering of an individual with mental health problems and impact their ability to effectively function in school or at work; additionally, mental health problems often strain relationships, which often leads to additional negative outcomes.

 

What you can do to reduce stigma:

 

  • Know the facts
    • Mental illness is actually quite common, it affects 1:4 families and 1:17 people have a mental illness diagnosis in America at any time
  • Speak Out
    • When you hear someone reinforcing a negative stereotype, take the opportunity to educate them
  • Discrepancy
    • Recognize that people are not their diagnosis. As opposed to “she is schizophrenic” say “she has schizophrenia”
  • Open the Conversation
    • Make it okay to talk about mental illness and emotional wellness; the more these topics are addressed the less stigma there is associated with mental health problems.
  • Practice Compassion
    • Engage others with empathy and respect; reduce language like nuts, crazy, loony, etc.
  • Help People Seek Support
    • We all go through rough times, it is okay to ask for help. Encourage the individual to seek treatment or help them find resources.
  • Give People a Sense of Hope
    • Remember there are successful interventions and services available to help almost all mental health diagnoses. Encourage the individual to find a professional to help them address their mental health

No one wants to talk about the elephant in the room; mental illness isn’t cute, it isn’t fun, it’s downright scary and can have some pretty awful impacts. Chances are you or someone you know is suffering and it’s not necessary. Help is out there, it’s available and accessible. Together we can stop the suffering by starting the conversation. Let go of the dis-ease and become who you are meant to be. #StoptheStigma

* https://www.morningsiderecovery.com/mental-illness/stop-the-stigma-infographic/

mental illness

 

Written by Prosperity’s Ashley Steelman, MSW[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

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