Cyberbullying and Eating DisordersAnyone who has ever been bullied knows that it can be a traumatizing experience; indeed, it can have a ruinous impact on confidence and self-esteem. Unfortunately, bullying comes in many different forms, including cyberbullying—and each form of bullying can be linked to eating disorders. What is cyberbullying? It’s a pretty broad term, describing any kind of bullying that takes place via electronic media. Social media sites, email, and text messages can all be vehicles for cyberbullying. As with any other form of traumatic, victimizing behavior, cyberbullying can ultimately lead to the development of mental health issues, among them eating disorders. In this post, we’re going to look at cyberbullying more closely; explain how it can play into the development of an eating disorder; and end with some words of hope for those who have endured online bullying.
Cyberbullying and its ImpactOne of the important distinctions about cyberbullying is that, because it takes place through virtual channels, it can be difficult to escape. It’s not like being bullied at school, where you can at least find safety and relief when you return home for the day. Cyberbullying can take place consistently, around the clock—and for the victim, it can seem inescapable. Another difficulty with cyberbullying is that hurtful messages or embarrassing images can be posted anonymously, and quickly distributed to a wide audience. It is no wonder that the impact of cyberbullying can be so harmful to the person on the receiving end of it.
Cyberbullying and Body ShameOne of those effects of cyberbullying is body shame. Our culture has narrow parameters of what the ideal body truly looks like, and bullies can use the Web to taunt and torment those who do not fit into that mold. “While fat-shaming and cyberbullying are not new concepts, with the advent of social media, people have more platforms and opportunities to make harmful comments about one’s weight and appearance,” says the National Eating Disorders Association. When cyberbullies use the Web to body shame, the effects can be brutal. “Bullying is not only cruel and hurtful, but it also can trigger low self-esteem and eating disorders,” the NEDA website states. “In fact, as many as 65 percent of people with eating disorders say bullying contributed to their condition.”
Steps to Stop CyberbullyingClearly, those who deal with cyberbullying are going to be zealous to put an end to it—but how? Here are a few recommendations we’d make:
- Make sure you keep your passwords secure; don’t share them with anyone, even friends you believe to be trustworthy.
- Don’t hesitate to use the privacy-enhancing features and “blocking” features that many social networks include. You can also report users who engage in bullying behavior.
- Be careful about what you post online or send in an email, remembering that once it’s online, it’s permanent—and not necessarily private.
- Don’t respond to bullies, as your response can be repurposed and used against you.
- In extreme cases, you might consider changing your social media handles, your email address, or even your phone number in order to escape bullies.