Overcoming an eating disorder can be an incredibly lonely experience, but it is one that millions of people experience in the United States. Often, people who suffer from such disorders are afraid to admit it to their families and friends. That sense of loneliness can make it extremely difficult for them to make progress in their recovery, instead causing them to relapse and further threatening their health.
But it is possible for social media to play a positive role in this process?
A recent article in The Atlantic explores this question by focusing on the story of Hayley Kremer, a 20-year-old student at Colorado Mesa University who has suffered from an eating disorder and related body image issues for years. In addition to attending traditional recovery programs, she took things a step further by using her Instagram account to document her struggle.
Instagram is a popular social network that allows users to share photos with their followers. Kremer's account contains numerous pictures of colorful prepared meals, along with an explanation of what she has been going through to recover from her eating disorder. She explained to The Atlantic that this is meant to act as a stark contrast to many of the images of unrealistically thin individuals that people are exposed to in the media every day.
Kremer is not the only young person to find support in this manner. Malia Budd, a student at Duke University, told The Atlantic that she has also used her Instagram account as a tool to help her recover from anorexia.
"It's kind of a crazy thing to tell people you met through your Instagram, but people post such personal things that it's easier to get to know someone on such a different level," Budd said. "It's harder to open up to someone if you know you're going to see them in different environments every day."
In these cases, Instagram is playing a crucial role. Those who suffer from eating disorders need emotional support from others, because in so many cases it is peer pressure that causes these disorders in the first place. It is not uncommon to hear about people developing anorexia, bulimia or other related issues after years of their friends and family pushing them to look a certain way. However, by forming connections with others who are going through similar experiences, Instagram users learn something very important: that they are not alone, and that recovery is possible.
Of course, using Instagram alone isn't a perfect recovery program. Kremer admitted to The Atlantic that there was a point where she had to take a break from the social network so she could better focus on her real life. She didn't want to post too many photos of what she eats for this reason.
The most complete treatment method involves the use of discussion therapy to address the psychological triggers causing eating disorders. For 25 years, Fairwinds Treatment Center has followed Dr. M.K. (Khal) El-Yousef's unique dual diagnosis methodology. Dr. Pauline Powers, an expert in the field of eating disorders, complements this course of treatment by working with patients and their families to lead patients onto the road to recovery.