You might be checking on what your friends are up to. You might be looking for a way to connect and communicate. Or you might just be looking for some entertainment.
Despite the reasons we engage in social media, researchers at the University Of Pittsburgh School Of Medicine say our social media use is predisposing us to body image concerns and the risk of developing an eating disorder (Sidani et al., 2016).
“We’ve long known that exposure to traditional forms of media, such as fashion magazines and television, is associated with the development of disordered eating and body image concerns, likely due to the positive portrayal of ‘thin’ models and celebrities,“ explains Jaime E. Sidani, PhD, MPH, assistant director of Pitt’s Center for Research on Media, Technology and Health. “Social media combines many of the visual aspects of traditional media with the opportunity for social media users to interact and propagate stereotypes that can lead to eating and body image concerns” (Sidani, 2016).
Sampling 1,765 U.S. adults age 19 through 32 in 2014, Dr. Sidani and her colleagues used questionnaires to determine use of 11 of the most popular social media platforms: Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Google Plus, Instagram, Snapchat, Reddit, Tumblr, Pinterest, Vine and LinkedIn.
Then they cross-referenced those results with the results of another questionnaire that used established screening tools to assess eating disorder risk, including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder and other clinical and mental health issues where people have a distorted body image and disordered eating.
Their findings should have us all putting our phones down. The participants who spent the most time on social media throughout the day had 2.2 times the risk of reporting eating and body image concerns, compared to their peers who spent less time on social media. And participants who reported most frequently checking social media throughout the week had 2.6 times the risk, compared with those who checked least frequently (Sidani et al., 2016).
While previous research has shown that people tend to post images online that present themselves in a more positive – rather than realistic – light, thereby exposing others to unrealistic expectations for their appearance, it is also possible, notes Brian A. Primack, MD, PhD, assistant vice chancellor for health and society in Pitt’s Schools of the Health Sciences, that people who have eating and body image concerns might then be turning to social media to connect with groups of people who also have these concerns” (Primack, 2016).
The concern, however, is that despite Instagram banning the hashtags ‘thinspiration’ and ‘thinspo,’ YouTube videos about anorexia nervosa that could be classified as “pro-anorexia” received higher viewer ratings than informative videos highlighting the health consequences of the eating disorder.
For Sidani, the answer is more research. Not just do we need to develop effective interventions to counter social media content that either intentionally or unintentionally increases the risk of eating disorders in users, she notes, we need to follow users over time to answer the cause-and-effect questions surrounding social media use and risk for eating and body image concerns.
Related Online Continuing Education (CE) Courses:
Ethics and Social Media is a 2-hour online continuing education (CE) course that examines the use of Social Networking Services (SNS) on both our personal and professional lives. Is it useful or appropriate (or ethical or therapeutic) for a therapist and a client to share the kinds of information that are routinely posted on SNS like Facebook, Twitter, and others? How are psychotherapists to handle “Friending” requests from clients? What are the threats to confidentiality and therapeutic boundaries that are posed by the use of social media sites, texts, or tweets in therapist-client communication?
The purpose of this course is to offer psychotherapists the opportunity to examine their practices in regard to the use of social networking services in their professional relationships and communications. Included are ethics topics such as privacy and confidentiality, boundaries and multiple relationships, competence, the phenomenon of friending, informed consent, and record keeping. A final section offers recommendations and resources for the ethical use of social networking and the development of a practice social media policy. Course #20-75 | 2016 | 32 pages | 15 posttest questions
Nutrition and Mental Health: Advanced Clinical Concepts is a 1-hour online continuing education (CE/CEU) course that examines how what we eat influences how we feel, both physically and mentally. While the role of adequate nutrition in maintaining mental health has been established for some time, just how clinicians go about providing the right nutritional information to the patient at the right time – to not just ensure good mental health, but actually optimize mood – has not been so clear. With myriad diets, weight loss supplements and programs, clients often find themselves reaching for the next best nutritional solution, all the while, unsure how they will feel, or even what to eat to feel better. On the other side of the equation, clinicians so often face not just a client’s emotional, situational, and relational concerns, but concerns that are clearly mired in how the client feels physically, and what impact his/her nutritional health may have on these concerns. For example, research into the role of blood sugar levels has demonstrated a clear crossover with client impulse control. Additionally, the gut microbiome, and its role in serotonin production and regulation has consistently made clear that without good gut health, mitigating anxiety and depression becomes close to impossible.
So if good mental health begins with good nutritional health, where should clinicians start? What advice should they give to a depressed client? An anxious client? A client with impulse control problems? This course will answer these questions and more. Comprised of three sections, the course will begin with an overview of macronutrient intake and mental health, examining recent popular movements such as intermittent fasting, carb cycling and ketogenic diets, and their impact on mental health. In section two, we will look specifically at the role of blood sugar on mental health, and research that implicates blood sugar as both an emotional and behavioral regulator. Gut health, and specifically the gut microbiome, and its influence on mood and behavior will then be explored. Lastly, specific diagnoses and the way they are impacted by specific vitamins and minerals will be considered. Section three will deliver specific tools, you, the clinician, can use with your clients to assess, improve and maximize nutrition to optimize mental health. Course #11-06 | 2017 | 21 pages | 10 posttest questions
Emotional Overeating: Practical Management Techniques is a 4-hour online continuing education (CE) course that discusses the causes of emotional eating and provides cognitive and behavioral exercises that can help to eliminate the addictive pattern.
Statistics report that Americans are an increasingly overweight population. Among the factors contributing to our struggle to stop tipping the scales is the component of “emotional eating” – or the use of food to attempt to fill emotional needs. Professionals in both the physical and emotional health fields encounter patients with emotional eating problems on a regular basis. Even clients who do not bring this as their presenting problem often have it on their list of unhealthy behaviors that contribute to or are intertwined with their priority concerns. While not an easy task, it is possible to learn methods for dismantling emotional eating habits. The goals of this course are to present information about the causes of emotional eating, and provide a body of cognitive and behavioral exercises that can help to eliminate the addictive pattern. Course #40-26 | 2011 | 44 pages | 30 posttest questions
Professional Development Resources is a nonprofit educational corporation 501(c)(3) organized in 1992. We are approved to sponsor continuing education by the American Psychological Association (APA); the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC); the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB); the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA); the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA); the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR); the Alabama State Board of Occupational Therapy; the Florida Boards of Social Work, Mental Health Counseling and Marriage and Family Therapy, Psychology & School Psychology, Dietetics & Nutrition, Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, and Occupational Therapy Practice; the Georgia State Board of Occupational Therapy; the New York State Education Department’s State Board for Mental Health Practitioners as an approved provider of continuing education for licensed mental health counselors (#MHC-0135); the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker & MFT Board and Board of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology; the South Carolina Board of Professional Counselors & MFTs; the Texas Board of Examiners of Marriage & Family Therapists and State Board of Social Worker Examiners; and are CE Broker compliant (all courses are reported within a few days of completion).
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