May 13, 2021 – “Quick things like Tik Tok and Instagram are so focused on the image, and so that’s what people are really tuning into, much more than other content,” Dr. Kathryn Pieper, child psychologist and director of Children’s Mercy Hospital’s eating disorder clinic, said.

That content is being internalized and can trigger people who are pre-disposed to mental illnesses and eating disorders.

“There have actually been a number of studies that have shown the more social media usage, the increase in negative body image, because of all the social comparison involved. And I would say that’s certainly consistent with what I’ve seen in the clinic,” Dr. Pieper said.

“When an image is portrayed over and over again, it’s much more likely to be internalized. So, the media images show a very small slice of body diversity. Body dissatisfaction can lead to increased mental health issues, including anxiety and depression, and a desperate need to want to fix that.”

All of that can lead to an eating disorder. There are multiple kinds of eating disorders, and you can’t tell just by looking at a person whether they are suffering from one.

“Eating disorders are complex biopsychosocial disorders, so there are genetic components for males as well as females that can influence the development of an eating disorder. There are personality characteristics which can lead to a person being more sensitive or at risk for an eating disorder, and of course anxiety and depression co-occur,” Dr. Pieper said.


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