Category: Body Issues and Eating Disorder Help

Food Addiction – Am I Addicted to Food?

Can You Be Addicted to Food?

Food addiction is difficult for those who have no personal experience with the subject to comprehend – just as those suffering from drug addiction and alcoholism are commonly faced with misunderstanding and discrimination from individuals who have not walked a mile in their shoes. Even drug addicts sometimes misunderstand food addiction, claiming that something involving a non-addictive substance cannot possibly be nearly as devastating as a physical and mental dependence on pills, booze, or the likes. As it turns out, studies show that those who suffer from food addiction experience a psychological response similar to those who suffer from substance dependency.

Experiments in both humans and animals prove that the same neurological reward centers that are stimulated by addictive chemical substances such as alcohol, heroin, and cocaine are activated by highly palatable foods – foods high in fat, salt, or sugar content. When an individual experiences intense feelings of pleasure as a result of eating certain foods (as dopamine is released into the brain), he or she will feel the need to eat again once that feeling has dissipated. Therefore, food addiction and drug addiction affect individuals somewhat similarly – although physical symptoms are typically unalike, the emotional and mental torment caused by the unrelenting cravings and impulsive compliance is devastatingly comparable.

Signs and Symptoms of Food Addiction

Those who suffer from food addiction will typically develop tolerances to food over time, much like drug addicts and alcoholics develop tolerances to their chemical substances of choice. What does tolerance mean by way of the food addict? The amount of palatable foods a food addict eats will likely increase over time, seeing as a greater amount of food will need to be consumed in order for the same amount of pleasure to be experienced. After a while, feelings of satisfaction and contentment will begin to be almost impossible to obtain, and the desire to once again achieve the initial feelings of gratification that food produced will override physical, mental, and interpersonal consequences. Food addicts will typically continue eating despite fullness, leading to serious health complications such as obesity, high blood pressure, and heart disease. However, food addicts can be of average weight – and frequently are. They may be genetically predisposed to metabolize food quickly, or they may compensate for their excessive food intake with hours of daily exercise.

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If you are addicted to food, you may experience some of the following symptoms:

  • Inability to control portions when eating certain types of food
  • Eating certain types of food secretly or in private
  • Going out of your way to obtain certain types of food when they are not available
  • Continuing to eat even when you’re no longer hungry
  • Eating despite fullness
  • Eating to the point of physical illness
  • You avoid certain social situations where certain types of food will be present for fear of publically overeating
  • Your performance at work or school is compromised because of your relationship with food and eating
  • You begin spending less time with friends and family members because of your eating and the consequences of continuous overeating
  • Eating often causes you to feel depressed, anxious, guilty, or shameful
  • The amount of food you used to consume no longer triggers the same feelings of satisfaction and pleasure, and you begin eating greater quantities of food in attempts to produce the same results

Help for Food Addiction

Food addiction is an extremely common disorder, though it is rarely openly discussed for widespread lack of understanding and empathy. If you or someone you love is suffering from food addiction, help is available. Many inpatient drug rehabs offer dual diagnosis disorder tracks, many of which focus on eating disorders of all kinds. For more information on our dual diagnosis program of addiction recovery, please contact one of our trained representatives today.

Different Types of Eating Disorders

Types of Eating Disorders

types of eating disorders

Each year, more and more women suffer from various eating disorders. This is especially true in the age of social media. Society portrays an image of what a beautiful person should be. Although this image isn’t true (remember that!), young women often strive to fit it by engaging in an eating disorder.

What is an Eating Disorder?

Eating disorders are a group of conditions in which the sufferer is obsessed with their body image. Eating disorders can be life-threatening, as well as cause severe physical problems. Eating disorders predominately affect women, though men can also suffer from them. There are a number of reasons for eating disorders, including: genetics, stress, mental illness, and societal pressure.

What is Anorexia?

Anorexia is the act of restricting food based on an irrational fear of gaining weight and a distorted body image. This leads to extreme weight loss, typically among adolescent females between thirteen and seventeen years old.

What are the Signs of Anorexia?

-Pretending to eat
-Lying about eating
-Obsession with reading food labels
-Obsession with measuring food portions
-Secretive food rituals (chewing and spitting out food)
-Dramatic weight loss
-Feeling overweight while at a healthy weight
-Constantly weighing oneself
-Fainting from dehydration
-Excessive exercising
-Wearing over sized clothing

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What is Bulimia?

Bulimia is compulsive binge eating, followed by vomiting to avoid gaining weight. It’s also know as binging and purging. The individual suffering from bulimia usually has a very strict diet, as well as an unhealthy obsession with food. They’ll usually starve themselves, finally eat, and promptly vomit.

What are the Signs of Bulimia?

-Lying about eating
-Eating large amounts of food
-Spending long periods in the bathroom after eating
-Switching from overeating to not eating at all
-Using laxatives or diet pills
-A persistent smell of vomit
-Discolored teeth

What is Binge Eating?

Binge eating is compulsively overeating, or eating large amounts of food in a short amount of time. Binge eaters often eat when not hungry and continue for long amounts of time. Those suffering want to stop, but feel unable to control their intake of food. The comfort of binge eating lasts for a short time, followed by regret, self-pity, and depression.

What are the Signs of Binge Eating?

-An inability to stop eating
-Consuming extremely large amounts of food
-Eating when full
-Hiding food
-Eating often throughout the day
-Feelings of embarrassment, guilt, disgust, and depression afterwards

What are some of the many blessings of sobriety?

What is Overeating?

Overeating is similar to binge eating, but takes place over a longer period of time. So, overeating is eating large amounts of food for weeks, months, or years. Over eaters constantly eat in order to relieve emotions like stress, anxiety, fear, and low self-esteem. Most over eaters are overweight or obese. Unlike bulimics, over eaters don’t vomit voluntarily after eating.

What are signs of overeating?

-Binge eating
-Involuntarily vomiting after eating
-Irregular menstrual cycles
-Irritable unless eating
-Hiding or lying about eating
-Excessive weight gain
-Obsessive thoughts of food
-Eating when not hungry
-Pain as a result of eating

Learn how to overcome any eating disorder!

What are the Dangers of Eating Disorders?

Dangers of eating disorder include malnutrition, organ failure, depression, tooth decay, heart problems, suicidal thoughts, and even death.

Many individuals are unaware they have an eating disorder. This is due in part to denial, but also because eating disorders are often easier to spot from outside. The suffering individual has a distorted body image. Often, even though they’re dangerously skinny, they still view themselves as overweight.

Binge eaters and overeaters typically use food to help fill a void and are unaware of their actions.

How can you get your family back after suffering from an eating disorder?

What’s the Link Between Eating Disorders and Addiction?

About half of those with eating disorders are also addicted to drugs or alcohol. Many use stimulant drugs (crack, cocaine, meth, Adderall, Ritalin) to help loss weight. Also common is using over-the-counter drugs like diet pills and laxatives

Diet Pills

Diet pills are anti-obesity and weight loss drugs. They reduce, or eliminate, an individual’s appetite and help to control their weight. These pills burn calories in an unhealthy way. Common side effects include: high blood pressure, insomnia, increased heart rate, restlessness, and irritability.


Laxatives are meant to unclog bowel movements. When using laxatives without food in the body, the abuser starts to lose bodily fluid. After abusing laxatives to lose weight, the user quickly gains it back. Severe health issues can occur as a result of laxative use. These include: extreme dehydration, organ damage, seizures, and even death. Less severe side effects include: constipation, bloating, mood swings, diarrhea, and painful cramping.

Eating Disorder Treatment: Mindful Eating

The Practice of Mindful Eating

What is mindful eating

I have a small red velvet cupcake in my hand. I’ve put my phone down, turned off the TV, and all music. This cupcake has my entire attention.

I set it down on the plate. I look. I pick it up, smell it, and place it back down.

I pick it up again and take a small first bite.

I chew and chew and taste every delicious bit of the cream cheese icing and moist cake.

I close my eyes and focus only on what I’m eating.

I make this bite last as long as possible.

I practice mindful eating.

The practice of mindful eating has always held my interest. This isn’t a diet. It’s really the anti-diet.  It’s a practice that enables you to be aware of your food and enjoy it more. You don’t have to change your eating patterns at all. In fact, you may find after a few days of mindful eating, you’ll actually want to eat less. You may even lose weight (!) without drugs or exercise!

Intrigued yet? This isn’t a spam email, I promise, it’s the truth.

What happens when you get addicted to diet pills?

Eating Disorder Statistics

Our country is obsessed with weight and dieting. It’s the sad truth. More and more men and women are being diagnosed with eating disorders like Anorexia Nervosa each year. According to The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders[1], up to 24 million people in the U.S. suffer from an eating disorder (anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating being the most common). This doesn’t include those who suffer from distorted eating, body dimorphic disorder, or an undiagnosed eating disorder.

Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.

Only 10% of individuals with eating disorders receive treatment. Only 35% of people receiving treatment do so at a specialized eating disorder facility. That’s a tiny number. Treatment is instrumental in the recovery process. Gender specific, and disorder specific, treatment centers are even better.

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How Do Eating Disorders and Mindful Eating Relate?

Mindful eating is often practiced as an exercise in women’s eating disorder treatment to give patients a greater awareness of what they experience while eating.

When practicing mindful eating, people can identify what emotions eating brings up. They can also learn how to walk though these emotions and, very often, these fears.

So, What is Mindful Eating?

First, let’s define mindfulness.

The Center for Mindful Eating defines mindfulness as “Paying attention, non-judgmentally, in the present moment. Mindfulness encompasses both internal processes and external environments. Mindfulness is being aware of your thoughts, emotions and physical sensations in the present moment. With practice, mindfulness cultivates the possibility of freeing yourself of reactive, habitual patterns of thinking, feeling and acting. Mindfulness promotes balance, choice, wisdom and acceptance of what is.”

They then go on to define mindful eating as “Allowing yourself to become aware of the positive and nurturing opportunities that are available through food selection and preparation by respecting your own inner wisdom. Using all your senses in choosing to eat food that is both satisfying to you and nourishing to your body. Acknowledging responses to food (likes, dislikes, or neutral) without judgment. Becoming aware of physical hunger and satiety cues to guide your decisions to begin and end eating.”

It’s a lot harder than it sounds. At first, it may be tough, but try mindful eating a few times. You may just like what you find.

How can you tell if someone is Anorexic? 

Really Tasting What You Eat

When was the last time you ate something and really tasted it? Our lives are incredibly busy and overstimulated. Many people end up eating at their desks, in their cars, while checking their phones, or just while generally exhausted.

Try this – set aside one meal, or even a snack, in the next week to practice mindful eating. Put a piece of food in your mouth. Try chewing it thirty times before swallowing. Taste it on your tongue, its texture. You might be surprised how sweet ricotta cheese is, or how filling your morning oatmeal is, or how spicy arugula is.

Many people find themselves in an adversarial relationship with food, which is a tragedy because eating should be a pleasure! Now put down your phone, close your eyes, and just eat.

Would I have noticed how delicious that cupcake was if I ate four in a row?



The Symptoms, Signs, and Effects of Anorexia Nervosa

What is Anorexia Nervosa?

Anorexia Nervosa is an eating disorder where the individual has a distorted perception of their body image and an irrational fear of gaining weight. It involves extreme weight loss, typically among young adolescent females (ages 13-17). Because of this overwhelming fear of gaining weight, the individual will starve themself. This causes severe health issues.

The term anorexia means loss of appetite. However, this disorder starts out as voluntary. The individual is actually hungry, though afraid to eat. The individual suffering constantly thinks about food and their weight. They’re often counting calories and weighing foods. The person’s entire life is focused around this single issue, so much so that they become depressed and apathetic.

The Difference Between Anorexia and Bulimia

What is Anorexia Nervosa?

How Can You Tell if Someone is Anorexic?

When a person with Anorexia Nervosa looks in the mirror, they don’t see a realistic image. Their thoughts are irrational and their perception completely distorted. An individual with Anorexia Nervosa will actually see themselves as extremely overweight, as opposed to others who see them underweight. These thoughts are immensely real and present a clear danger. It’s common for the individual to consume a couple hundred calories per day, or going even further, only water.

Many times the person is aware of their condition. They’ve even occasionally okay with it. However, they won’t see the seriousness of Anorexia, or want to change. It’s very difficult for them to understand that it can be fatal.

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What are Anorexia Symptoms and Warning Signs?

-Pretending to eat
-Lying about eating
-Obsession with reading food labels
-Measuring food portions
-Secretive food rituals (chewing and spitting out food)
-Extreme weight loss
-Continuous dieting
-Irregular menstrual cycles
-Feeling fat while at a healthy weight
-Constantly weighing oneself
-Fainting from dehydration
-Hair loss
-Stunted growth
-Yellow skin and nails
-Decreased body temperature
-Excessive exercising
-Wearing baggy or oversized clothing

Mindful Eating: The Cure for Anorexia 

 What are the Health Risks of Anorexia Nervosa?

-Hormonal disorders
-Organ failure
-Severe depression
-Suicidal thoughts
-Bone deterioration
-Heart problems
-Muscle pain
-Kidney stones
-Gallbladder disease
-Low blood pressure

The death rate for Anorexia Nervosa is higher than any other psychiatric illness!

Treatment Options for Anorexia Nervosa

Often, those suffering from anorexia also suffer from substance abuse. About 50% of anorexic individuals are substance abusers. Dual Diagnosis treatment is available and very similar to drug addiction treatment. The main goals are to get to a healthy weight, to start eating more food, and to effect a change in perception about their body image.

Therapy is also included. The disorder involves both mind and body. Having a support team is key. Family members are encouraged to participate in treatment in order to get the best results. Anorexia is very dangerous. Medical attention is, without a doubt, mandatory. Stabilizing any health issue comes first. Some people may need to be hospitalized due to malnutrition and afterwards be discharged to treatment.

Nutritionists play a huge role in the success or failure of treatment. They’ll teach the individual how to eat healthy and maintain proper nutrition. They’ll develop meal plans. For the best results, specific aftercare counseling is recommended.

Simply put, there’s treatment and hope for all those who suffer from Anorexia Nervosa!

All the Different Types of Eating Disorders

Community Based Eating Disorder Help!

The Alliance for Eating Disorder Awareness Rocks!

Do you know about the Alliance for Eating Disorder Awareness? Well, you should! They’re a nonprofit group located in West Palm Beach, Florida. They’ve been around for fifteen years and, more importantly, they provide an invaluable service to those in South Florida struggling with eating disorders.

alliance for eating disorder awareness

They sound pretty rad, right? Well they are! Members of their leadership have been featured on NBC and The Today Show and in the pages of The New York Times and Glamour Magazine. It’s safe to say they’re committed to helping all those who struggle with disordered eating.

I recently had the pleasure of speaking to founder and CEO Johanna Kandel and Director of Programming Sharon Glynn. Find our conversation below. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Lighthouse Recovery Institute:
Could you give us some brief background information on the Alliance for Eating Disorder Awareness?

The Alliance was founded in October 2000 by Johanna Kandel, our CEO. Johanna founded The Alliance after her own ten year struggle with anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder. She realized there were very few resources in this area, there were no support organizations, and there was no advocacy network. Johanna started The Alliance of Eating Disorders Awareness on a small scale and we have been growing and increasing awareness and education ever since that day. This year, in October, we will recognize our 15th year of community service providing referrals, support, outreach, education, and more.

Lighthouse Recovery Institute:
Fifteen years is a long time. I didn’t realize that your organization was founded out of personal experience with eating disorders.

Johanna started the organization’s outreach program doing school presentations. We now provide programs and activities aimed at outreach and education, all of which are aimed at health promotion. This includes all eating disorders, positive body image, obesity, and self-esteem. We hold six support groups that are free to the community. We provide a center that provides a safe haven for those struggling. We offer peer counseling. We have a borrowing library. We have a treatment resource center. We do “Lunch and Learn” programming in the community. We go into the offices of health care providers, doctors, nurses, dentists, etc. and educate them on how to properly screen, diagnose, assess and refer eating disorders. The Alliance travels across the country speaking to healthcare professionals, the lay population, students, and others on the topic of eating disorders.

Learn more about Johanna & Sharon!

We have two referral guides. Our Florida Eating Disorders Treatment Referral Guide, and our U.S. Eating Disorders Treatment Guide. The Florida Guide is a list of providers in the state of Florida, by city, who specialize in treating eating disorders and other comorbid diagnosis. Our Florida Guide is 100% funded from the proceeds we raise at our walk every year. There is no charge to be listed in the guide and there is no charge to receive the guide. We printed 12,000 copies in 2014 and mailed them to every school in the state of Florida, from pre-K to post-grad, every hospital, and every health department center. We have them available at each training we conduct, every conference we attend, and by phone and email request.

Our U.S. Eating Disorder Treatment Referral Guide is a comprehensive list of treatment centers across the country that specialize in the treatment of eating disorders. Again, there is no charge to be listed in the guide, and no charge to receive the guide. We do sell advertising space in the guide to pay for the design, printing, and mailing. We sent 22,000 copies of the U.S. guide to colleges and universities across the U.S., to hospital discharge planners, and etc. We also have them available at each training conduct, every conference we attend, and by phone and email request.

Lighthouse Recovery Institute:
That’s a pretty large reach for both guides!

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Our reach for the Florida Guide is approximately three million people and our reach for the U.S. Guide is estimated at around eighteen million. That is just for the hard copies. Both of our guides are accessible online. On the first day that our 2014-2015 guide was online, we had about 1,600 downloads in the first few hours alone.

It is a real great resource providing comprehensive information in one place. Our goal with both of the guides as well as our mission at the organization, is access to care. We want people that are struggling, as well as their loved ones, to get the support they need.

Lighthouse Recovery Institute:
I didn’t realize you sent out these guides and offered education on where to receive treatment on the level that you do. It’s admirable. What are some of the ways your organization is doing community outreach and education in south Florida?

We do a great deal of community outreach. We are a community-based organization. First, we have school presentations. This ranges from going into middle schools and high schools, to colleges and universities. We offer different presentations for different levels of schooling. Our middle school presentations speak to body image, self-esteem, and social media. In high school, we’ll introduce more information on eating disorders. In colleges, we’ll absolutely talk about eating disorders. We also go into nursing schools and masters level programs.

We also provide what we call a “Lunch and Learn” program. We go into primary care providers. We present on how to identify, assess, and refer people for treatment. Often times, it’s our primary care providers who don’t receive the necessary education to assist them in being able to detect eating disorders.

As Sharon said, we hold six free support groups in the office. We have support groups for adolescents who are struggling. We have support groups for those individuals who have dual diagnoses with eating disorders and substance abuse. We have a binge eating disorder support group. We also have a friends and family group. We also have two pro recovery groups – one in West Palm Beach and one in Plantation.

We definitely infiltrate the community by doing presentations for students and professionals. We do community trainings for clinicians, as well. Between our impact directly in the community and trainings and phone support, we are that beacon of hope in the community. Everything we do, across the board, is always free of charge.

alliance for eating disorder awareness

Lighthouse Recovery Institute:
I wonder if you can talk a bit more about the difficulty that doctors have in identifying eating disorders. I was doing some research and it seems like medical professionals everywhere are in the midst of an epidemic of a lack of knowledge of how to properly diagnose and treat eating disorders.

I am a licensed nurse in the state of Florida. I graduated nursing school only eleven years ago and I received about twenty minutes of education on eating disorders. That education was being given the names and definitions and then we moved on.

I can tell you, in medical school, it is not much better. There is a deficit on eating disorder education when residents and interns are being trained on mental illness. There is still this stumbling block that people don’t accept eating disorders as a brain disease. Medical schools haven’t come full circle yet and don’t understand that it needs to be a required part of the curriculum. We recently presented to third year medical students, and I can tell you their jaws dropped because they didn’t know even a third of the information we gave them.

What we do when we go into a health care provider’s office or hospital is to train the staff on how to assess and diagnose. We have pocket cards that we’ve created for health care providers that fit into their lab coats. These cards have questions to ask, information on what blood work to run, tests to order, and the results to watch out for. We explain to them the signs and symptoms and talk about the office culture. We talk about where the scale is located in their office. We talk about how to treat those patients that come in and talk to the doctor or nursing staff about how they are struggling with an eating disorder. We offer them brochures and the treatment center guide. We offer our service as a resource for their patients. So, it doesn’t end when we leave the office. We have continual relationships with these health care providers and their patients.

Lighthouse Recovery Institute:
That seems like a pretty noble mission. I was surprised to hear what you’d said, Sharon, about the education just not being there, even for healthcare professionals.

Part of that lack of education comes back to the research that’s available. Unfortunately, anorexia nervosa, as one example of an eating disorder, has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder. That’s a fact. However, in research dollars spent, it receives about one-tenth the research dollars that schizophrenia gets, even though anorexia has the highest morality rate. So, part of the lack of education issue is a lack of current research, statistics, and information to provide for medical students.

Lighthouse Recovery Institute:
That’s a pretty large divide between the funding available to what are thought of as “traditional” mental disorders and those that are actually the killers. I didn’t know that anorexia had the highest morality rate of ay mental illness.

There’s a true disconnect there and we need to work to change that! That is a part of what we do with our advocacy program. We are in the state capital in Tallahassee and we’re in Washington D.C. every year. We’re in D.C. twice a year, actually, speaking with our congressional representatives to reduce that discrepancy between the research dollars and education. We are advocating to create a true parity for mental health treatment. We do this through letter writing campaigns, phone calls, and or direct presence and conversation in both capitals, state and national.

mental illness

Lighthouse Recovery Institute:
Could you talk a bit about the Celebrating EveryBODY campaign and about the everyBODY eating disorder awareness walk?

We realize how important size, shape, weight diversity, and acceptance is in our society. That’s how we came up with the celebrating everyBODY idea. We live in a world that can be discriminatory about shape and size. There’s a lot of body shaming going on, where it’s being very small or being bigger than what’s “accepted” in our society. Really, celebrating EveryBODY is about coming back to the idea that health equals health, not skinny equals healthy. It’s about acceptance of self.

Click here to see the Celebrate EveryBODY flyer

What we do, especially in college clubs, is body image work. We know that body image and eating disorders are two separate things. Poor body image does not cause an eating disorder. I want to put that out there. Eating disorders are biologically based mental illnesses. However, we also know that much of our society is dealing with poor body image, low self-esteem, ad disordered eating. That’s really what celebrating everyBODY is. It’s about fracturing our unrealistic ideals and realizing that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes, and health comes in all shapes and sizes.

Now, the walk came out of that. It’s only one mile long. We purposefully made it only one mile long so it’s safe for people on any part of their journey to recovery. Often times, individuals with eating disorders will use exercise as purging mechanism, so we keep the walk very limited.

It’s a slow, mindful walk in a beautiful park. We hold our walk in South County Regional Park, Boca Raton in February of every year. We recently completed our fourth walk. The first year we had about 200 people. Last year, we had about 650 people. Our goal this year was 800 people and we made it! It’s a phenomenal morning of inspiration, community, recovery, and hope. The reason I say that is because it’s inspiring to see people come together on an issue that’s so shamed and stigmatized. It’s inspiring to see people to come together and say, “We didn’t choose to have eating disorders but we do choose to have recovery.”

My favorite memory of any walk is actually from the first year. I was holding the banner with several other people and there was a family behind us. A mother, father, and two children. As we were walking, the father leaned over to the children and said, “Isn’t it amazing that we can support mommy this way?” That really…is such a great example of our walk. It is community based. We have speakers that are in recovery. The walk is very inspirational. Eating disorders are very grave. They’re very serious, but there’s hope. To know that there’s hope, that there’s recovery, is amazing. Complete recovery is possible.

What’s awesome about our walk is that 100% of the dollars raised go to fun our Florida Eating Disorder Treatment Referral Guide. All the funds stay in Florida. It allows us to directly impact access to care. It’s really nice for people to know that they’re raising money for something that’s going to impact eating disorder care across the state. We hope the community will come together and join us on February 27th, 2016 for our next walk!

Check out the Alliance for Eating Disorder’s Site Today!

Disturbing Self-Harm & Eating Disorder Hashtags on Instagram

#ana, #mia, #cutting

I’d like to take this opportunity to offer a trigger warning. The rest of this article isn’t for the easily squeamish or those in early recovery from self-harm/eating disorders. Below are graphic screenshots of self inflicted cuts and people struggling with eating disorders.

Not too long ago, I wrote about a community of Instagram users who share pictures of syringes, crack pipes, heroin, and other hard drugs. They’ve proclaimed themselves the “junkies of Instagram” and seem to have a strange form of pride about their activities.


Well, I recently discovered another community that posts equally graphic pictures. They’re the pro self-harm and eating disorder advocates of Instagram. Instead of taking pictures of syringes and drugs, they’re posting razorblades and emaciated rib bones.

I’ve included Instagram’s response to these pictures, as well as some information on self-harm and E.D. recovery on the mobile app. While there are certainly some dark hashtags, there are also some inspiring and positive ones.

Read on if you’d like to learn more about this disturbing trend.

Learn why anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness

Graphic Pictures are Nothing New

For as long as the internet’s been around, there’ve been people posting inappropriate pictures and advocating for taboo practices. That’s the price that an unrestricted access to information brings with it.

However, with the massive rise in popularity of mobile social media apps, this advocating has reached a whole new level. Consider that hashtags like #ana and #mia each have over seven million posts. #ana itself is at almost eight million total pictures.

It’s plain to see that pro eating disorder and pro self-harm Instagram posts are here to stay, no matter what opponents try to do. Instagram itself tried to ban certain hashtags in late 2012. They put the kibosh on the popular ones #thinspiration, #thinspo, #proanorexia, #probulimia, and #loseweight.

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Once this happened, pro E.D. and self-harmers simply switched hashtags. So, banning them won’t work. What will work? Well, Huffington Post’s Lauren Duca has a suggestion.

Duca stated, “…people stop placing value on the ‘likes’ they receive on social networks and begin to redirect that energy in healthier, more appropriate ways” (Medical Daily).

That makes sense to me. Of course, we live in the age of social media addiction. While putting down our phones and finding healthier outlets sounds good, it’s near impossible for most people.

different types of self harm

Perhaps a good solution would be to embrace the positive side of social media sharing. I’ll touch on that shortly. First, though, let’s examine the actual hashtags that have gained popularity.

Learn all the different types of eating disorders

Popular E.D. & Self-Harm Hashtags

cutting on social media

After Instagram’s 2012 crackdown on hashtags, users simply found new ones. As of February 2015, there’s still an enormous and active community of pro eating disorder advocates and self-harmers on the app.

Today’s popular hashtags are terms like #ana (7.9 million posts), #mia (7.2 million posts), #anorexia (4.7 million posts), #suicidal (4.6 million posts), #cutting (4 million posts), #ed (3.5 million posts), and #selfharmmm (2.1 million posts).

All the pictures included in this essay have been pulled from one of those hashtags.

In Instagram’s defense, they’ve put content warnings on all the above terms. When a user searches for, say, #anorexia, a box pops up with an option to continue or learn more about eating disorders.

While there are no hard numbers available on how many people have sought to learn more and seek help from these warnings, it’s a positive step. It’s also more effective than simply banning hashtags.

Remember, if one term is banned, several more immediately spring up. However, if Instagram offers help to those searching these hashtags in the first place, well, then recovery is possible.

Let’s take a look at Instagram’s official response and then at how they’re actively working to promote #recovery in their app.

Instagram’s Response

According to Instagram’s Community Guidelines:

“Don’t promote or glorify self-harm: While Instagram is a place where people can share their lives with others through photographs, any account found encouraging or urging users to embrace anorexia, bulimia, or other eating disorders; or to cut, harm themselves, or commit suicide will result in a disabled account without warning. We believe that communication regarding these behaviors in order to create awareness, come together for support and to facilitate recovery is important, but that Instagram is not the place for active promotion or glorification of self-harm.”


“It is important to note that this guideline does not extend to accounts created to constructively discuss, or document personal experiences that show any form of self-harm where the intention is recovery or open discussion. While we strongly encourage people to seek help for themselves or loved ones who are suffering, we understand the importance of communication as a form of support, in order to create awareness and to assist in recovery.”

There’s something to be said for this approach. Support the recovery aspect of eating disorders and self-harm, while banning users who actively post advocating for them? I can full heartedly support that. It treats Instagram users like adults.

But what about users who aren’t adults? After all, a large portion of Instagram accounts are held by those who are under eighteen. Should they be subject to the same guidelines?

eating disorders on instagram

Unfortunately, I don’t have an answer for that question. I do, however, think that exposing minors to recovery and positive lifestyles can’t hurt. If the negative is on social media, let’s make sure the positive is, too.

Talk therapy is changing suicide rates dramatically!

Recovery on Instagram

self harm on instagram

It’s not all doom and gloom on Instagram. While there are many pro ED and self-harm hashtags, there are just as many recovery hashtags.

Some of the most popular are ones like #recovery (2.8 million posts), #edrecovery (1.5 million posts), #selfharmrecovery (33,000 posts), and #edrecover (25,000 posts).

Now, there’s a large difference between the 7.9 million posts for #ana and the 2.8 for #recovery. Still, nearly 3 million people posting positive messages of recovery is nothing to laugh at. In fact, it’s people like them who offer the most support to those currently struggling with an eating disorder or self-harm.

So, recovery is alive and well on Instagram. The next step is watching this community of positivity blossom and spread. Hopefully, people who are currently taking pro ED photos will see some of the recovery posts.

Imagine raising your hand to speak in a meeting and sharing a story of how Instagram introduced you to the rooms of recovery! That’s pretty cool, if you ask me.

If you’re in recovery, or for that matter still struggling, feel free to check out Lighthouse Recovery Institute’s Instagram. We have a sister Instagram just for women, too. Find us at @lighthouserecoveryinstitute and @sobrietyforwomen.

And remember, #WeCanAllChange!

Mindful Eating – an easy way to fight eating disorders!

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