The uncertain role of social networks


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    Social networks promote an ideal of thinness that can contribute to the development of eating disorders such as anorexia. However, they also make it possible to create communities of support, with the risk of “locking patients to this pathology.”

    This phenomenon is not new: blogs in favor of anorexia (“professional master”) or for bulimia (“professional mia”) had a boom in the early 2010s. They were removed by their hosts, but are finding new forms on social networks on the occasion of World Eating Disorders (ED) Day, which will take place on June 2, attention experts say.

    this “difficulties” On TikTok or Instagram, they are mostly challenges started by teens against other teens. as someone said “A4 sheet” : To win, the waist circumference must measure only 21 centimeters, which is the width of A4 paper. We get there only by depriving ourselves of food for a long time.

    Networks gather thousands of accounts that advocate weakness and can create complexes among adolescents.

    According to Valentin Flaudias, a clinical psychology lecturer at the University of Nantes, the enthusiasm of the youngest for these descriptions of thin, healthy, and athletic personality first comes first. “message delivered by society”.

    Risk of “recovery” accounts

    “The call to combat obesity and physical activity highlights the trend towards these accounts that correspond to the ideal of thinness”He recalled the WHO’s alarming statements in May, he told AFP. “obesity epidemic” in Europe.

    “Aesthetic question”Nathalie Godart, child psychiatrist and president of the French Federation for anorexia bulimia (FFAB), says that the ubiquity of networks that boast filtered and retouched photos also has an impact on people who already suffer from TCA.

    Anorexia nervosa is the result “a few factors”she remembers. “His trigger cannot be summarized in social networks”however, they may be “a factor at the root of restlessness and low self-esteem.”

    In addition to these aspects, young women between the ages of 15 and 25 on average now use the networks to create accounts to share their hospitalizations and progress of their relationship with the disease. “recovery” (improvement).

    Mutual aid communities are formed among patients for later recovery. “It’s good, but it has risks”warns Mr. Flaudias. “Anorexia is often a relationship problem with others, and these accounts can risk identifying oneself with the disease and thus locking oneself in”.

    focus on your body

    Conversely, the researcher notes an explosion in his movement. “body positivism” (loving your body). “It’s still better than the pro-ana move, but these accounts focus on the body once again. To treat anorexia, you need to detach yourself from it”notes.

    Nathalie Godart, these accounts sometimes “food education”leads to “invasion of thought” with food.

    Suddenly, some patients have the impression that they are being treated but may develop a related disorder, orthorexia, or an obsession with healthy eating. They then lose weight – that’s the difference from anorexia – but they control what they eat excessively, with consequences for their social lives.

    Pauline Drecq, a psychologist in Paris, participated in the creation of a collective workshop based on patients’ experiences in networks in a day hospital in 2019. These young people with eating disorders “Consult the networks in the evening in their room, when they are alone, and sometimes in times of anxiety”. Commenting during workshops “an Instagram post or YouTube video” and analyze their positive or negative effects on their minds.

    However, its relation to the content is different. “according to the patient and the stage of his disease”, the psychologist notes. a kitchen account “it can give hope of recovery to one patient and increase food restrictions in another”.

    The aim is not to demonize social networks, but to make patients aware of their effects on their illness. “so that their use becomes care”says Mrs. Drecq.