A positive eating disorder recovery community has emerged in recent years on Instagram to build a presence of followers who seek support online using the photo-sharing app. While mobile apps and websites like Instagram and Tumblr have been criticized for encouraging pro-eating disorder communities, another side has grown a strong presence to support one another through eating disorders. Find out more about how Instagram and social media is helping build a community of supporters for individuals with eating disorders.
Rather than the pro-eating disorder communities which use hashtags such as #thinspiration and #thighgap (presently disabled for promotion of disordered eating), other communities have united around recovery from eating disorders. Hashtags with a positive twist such as #edrecovery, #edsurvivor and @beatana (‘ana’ referring to anorexia nervosa) promote a supportive community for individuals with eating disorders (mostly women). The posts online consist of before-and-after photos, inspirational quotes and lots of photos of healthy food while providing a safe space for young people to seek support in a virtual world.
Challenges of Social Media
Online support for the eating disorder recovery community has a downside as well. Social media allows people to create an appearance of recovery and health while people are still unhappy, unhealthy and struggling. The hashtag #edrelapse demonstrates the struggles of coping with an eating disorder and the fact recovery is not black and white or just a photo on Instagram. It is, in fact, a very real and challenging disorder to overcome.
Individuals with Instagram accounts who focus on a positive eating disorder recovery community fill the social media feed with colorful photos of beautiful meals, treats, selfies and documentation of life beyond an eating disorder. Some posts may include lengthy descriptions of a personal recovery story, attracting comments from others with shared experiences. Recovery accounts have amassed thousands of followers. Instagram has an official policy banning images or hashtags which promote self-harm.
Finding Support for Eating Disorders
Young women and girls are mostly using Instagram recovery accounts, although men and boys are also joining in as well to promote positive body image and recovery from eating disorders specifically affecting males. While social media can amplify thoughts and behaviors, recovery accounts aim to change the trend to positive engagement and thoughts around what is healthy while promoting what recovery is really like. Individuals have found motivation to recovery, even when setbacks have occurred. When recovery is done in public, it can be a trigger for some people but paints a picture of what happens in recovery. In some cases, people will leave Instagram for a short time to focus solely on recovery because it, too, can become addictive and individuals may focus more on the number of likes than how well recovery is going.
Instagram and social media are great support communities but are no replacement for therapeutic intervention. Eating disorders are serious and can have life changing consequences. If you or a loved one are struggling with an eating disorder, call us to find out how we can help you recover and live a full, healthy life.