It’s easier than ever to share flattering photos on social media, but there are fresh fears a trend towards 'skinny selfies' could be fueling eating disorders.
The sharing of pictures on social media may be causing those with eating disorders to compete, warns consultant child psychiatrist Dr Pippa Hugo from the UK’s Royal College of Psychiatrists.
“Patients might post images of themselves, or the food that they’re eating, and invite comment or judgement from others,” she says.
“If they, for example, look at a post and find out someone else looks thinner than they are, then that might spur them on to eat less [or] exercise more.”
Abigail Davies, who is now an adult survivor of an eating disorder, knows just how dangerous online pro-anorexia sites can be to those who are already suffering.
“When you’re already in that grip of anorexia and that’s your vice already, you turn to those websites,” she says.
Ms Davies says she discovered sites that fuelled her disorder at just thirteen.
“There’s no age restriction on these sites, so you’ve got 12, 13 year olds who may not be aware of those eating disorders, and it may trigger something in them,” she adds.
Susan Ringwood from the eating disorder support group BEAT says the internet can also offer support and advice to sufferers and their families, but that the darker side of ‘selfie sites’ must be better understood.
“We’re calling on parents, on friends and everyone else to understand more about the role that social media plays in young people’s lives, and become more resilient to the more toxic aspects of it.”