Social Media is a very wide spread network that allows people all around the world to communicate with each other. Throughout all these platforms, you can potentially share, like, and comment on posts. But with a fun app that allows you to share things with the public, exposing your personal lives, there is always a downside. Social Media apps can have detrimental effects on your mental health. Your self image mostly falls victim to these sites, causing many mental illnesses.
Beauty standards have been so normalized in today’s age, but it is at its peak on social media sites. Young people are expected to fit in this certain box of characteristics in order to be considered ‘beautiful.’ Everyone tries so hard to meet these beauty standards to get more likes or positive comments on their posts, even if it means changing themselves. But if you rely on others’ thoughts and opinions for validation, you will never be satisfied with yourself. This can be extremely damaging to one’s mental health, especially in adolescents.
Teenagers, especially at the younger ages tend to care a lot more about what others think. It has been “estimated that 50% of all mental disorders are established by the age of 14 and 75% by the age of 18” (Kessler et al., 2007; Kim-Cohen et al., 2003). It is established that there are mental disorders within many adolescents, however “ according to the Royal Society for Public Health, & Young Health Movement (2017), the prevalence of anxiety and depression has increased by 70% in the past 25 years in young people”(Keles, Betul, et al.). This proves that the adolescent mind is very vulnerable to mental illnesses, making the use of social media extremely threatening to their mental health.
Eating disorders form from the fear of gaining weight, or from trying to lose weight. These disorders often stem from the pressures of society’s beauty standards. The center point of beauty standards, consist of a slim, toned figure. Adolescents aim to please others, constantly trying to change themselves in order to be accepted by their peers. The overwhelming thoughts can be so intense that it leads people to developing eating disorders. John Hopkins states that the most common onset age of eating disorders is between 12-25 (Mennitto, D). This is a very common age range for social media users, making the connection not surprising.
Anorexia Nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by self starvation due to the fear of gaining weight and/or trying to lose weight. Those with anorexia generally have a BMI under 18.5, which is an unhealthy level. This eating disorder has “the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric diagnosis other than opioid use disorders” (Anorexia Nervosa). There are two types of anorexia nervosa: starvation (not eating) and binging/ purging which means overeating, then throwing up (Anorexia Nervosa).
-For females, menstrual cycles may cease
-dizziness and even fainting can occur from dehydration
-brittle nails/ hair
-weak/ wasting muscles
-heart burn/ reflux (for those who vomit)
-Depression, anxiety, irritability, poor concentration, and fatigue
Bulimia Nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by alternating between a low calorie food diet and a binge of unhealthy foods. “Binging is defined as eating a large amount of food in a short period of time”, often done in secret due to feelings of shame and embarrassment. This binge/purge behavior is different from anorexia because those with bulimia can be a little underweight, normal weight, overweight, or even obese (Bulimia Nervosa).
Signs/symptoms that someone has Bulimia
-frequent trips to bathroom after meal
-unexplainable large amounts of foods missing, wrappers, or empty containers
-recurrent unexplainable diarrhea
-misuse of diuretics
-Chronic sore throat
-swelling of salivary glands in cheeks
-dental decay due to stomach acid
-heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux
-feeling dizzy/ fainting from excessive purging behaviors due to dehydration
Not only does the excessive use of social media cause eating disorders, it is shown to have caused a variety of other mental disorders as well. Dopamine is a chemical in the brain that can be described as a “feel-good chemical” and released by the reward center. This is released with social interaction, like on social media apps, making them highly addictive (The Social Dilemma: Social Media and Your Mental Health ). These addictive apps can cause multiple disorders, mostly anxiety and depression.
“General Anxiety disorder is characterized by persistent and excessive worry about a number of different things” (Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)). Social media advertises beauty standards, which play a major part in the development of anxiety. When someone or something tells these young boys and girls how they should look they might start to feel extremely self conscious. “Heightened self reflection is a central feature of mood and anxiety disorders” (American Psychiatric Association). Constantly worrying about how you look and how you can change that causes a great amount of distress on your mental state. But GAD is not the only anxiety disorder that can be caused by social media. By no surprise, social media can cause the development of social anxiety. Social Anxiety is characterized by “an intense anxiety or fear of being judged, negatively evaluated, or rejected in a social or performance situation” (Social Anxiety Disorder). Although it is online, social media is still a social situation. Social anxiety can develop when you become obsessed with what you are posting, how many likes or comments you get, how many shares you will get, whether or not people will think you look good, etc. All of these thoughts can overwhelm one’s mind if they become too addicted to the attention they get off the app. This distress can be very damaging, and greatly affect one’s everyday life.
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