The Effect of Social Media and Eating Disorders

By: Sarah Cohen

Eating disorders are extremely serious and often deadly illnesses that include severe disturbances in eating behaviors and related thoughts and emotions. There have been numerous studies in which mass media consumption of the “thin ideal body” has been linked to eating disorders among women. Pressure from media has led to women and men internalizing the “thin ideal body” and led to extreme body dissatisfaction which can then lead to eating disorders. While the effect is smaller among men, they are still being subjected to pressure.

Studies have shown “significant change in the weight and size of female and male models portrayed throughout the media in western society and the concept of the ‘perfect or ideal body’.” This explains “why many adolescents are preoccupied with their bodies and dissatisfied with their body image and are willing to try a variety of dangerous weight-loss practices in their quest for the perfect body.”

Most people are usually not aware the amount of manipulation and digital editing done in the fashion industry to create ‘ideal’ female and male bodies. These false images encourage unrealistic and unhealthy standards that are impossible to attain. One study focused on body concerns in girls 16 years old and tried to understand the underlying motivations to be skinny. The element that exerted the largest pressure to be smaller was the media. Another study measured indicators of eating disorders in a population of young Fijian girls after the addition of Western television to their routine. The indicators of eating disorders were exceptionally more prevalent after extended television viewing, demonstrating a negative impact of media. A large component of the data recorded was the theme of subjects describing a new interest in weight loss as a method of modelling themselves after the television characters they viewed.

In order to prevent the effect of social media on disordered eating, here are three tips: choose what media you view and participate in carefully, limit the amount of exposure you have, and test each media’s message for body positivity by asking critical questions about what information they are attempting to spread.

If you or someone you know needs support with their marriage, please contact our psychotherapy offices in New York or New Jersey to talk to one of our licensed professional psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, or psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, please visit .

Tiggemann M, Gardiner M, Slater A. “I would rather be size 10 than have straight A’s”: A focus group study of adolescent girls’ wish to be thinner. J Adolesc. 2000;23:645–59.

Becker AE, Burwell RA, Gilman SE, Herzog DB, Hamburg P. Eating behaviours and attitudes following exposure to television among ethnic Fijian adolescent girls. Br J Psychiatry. 2002;180:509–14.

FOMO: The Fear of Missing Out

Leah Flanzman

Every college student or young adult has spent a Saturday night curled up on the couch in sweatpants with a pint of ice cream; scrolling through Instagram when they see their friends having the time of their lives out on the town.  At that moment, they are hit with a pang of regret on deciding to spend the night in.  Their mind immediately starts forming a million possibilities of jokes being formed and memories being made without them, and they instantly assume they are missing the greatest night ever.  This common phenomenon is called FOMO, or the fear of missing out.

In modern times, Millenials are connected to each other’s lives through their social media presence on platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and Facebook.  It has become seemingly impossible to remain in the dark about your friend’s whereabouts, which is why FOMO is such an emerging issue.  If you remained in ignorant bliss about what everybody in your phone was up to, there would be no fear of missing out, as the seed of wonder would never be planted.  FOMO triggers the thought that you’re the only person in the world not living their best life in that moment, and can be extremely damaging to your mental health.

FOMO can also be present in a situation where you have to choose between two options, as you cannot be two different places at once.  Let’s say you were invited to Sally’s party and Billy’s party on the same day.  You choose to go to Sally’s party but while you’re there, you see a friend who went to Billy’s party having the best time on their Snapchat story.  This causes a buildup of anxiety from the thought that you could be having more fun if you had made a different decision.  FOMO causes people to develop the attitude that something bigger and better is always around the corner, which is an unproductive, unhealthy mindset.

If you or someone you know is struggling with FOMO that is leading to anxiety, the psychologists, psychiatrists, and psychotherapists at Arista Counseling and Psychiatric Services can help.  Contact the Bergen County, NJ or Manhattan offices at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920.  Visit for more information.