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New Canaan's Silver Hill Hospital Discusses Eating Disorders Survey

Erin Kleifield, director of eating disorders program at Silver Hill Hospital
Erin Kleifield, director of eating disorders program at Silver Hill Hospital Photo Credit: Silver Hill Hospital website

NEW CANAAN, Conn. — Silver Hill Hospital in New Canaan said a recent survey found people struggling with eating disorders say they are misunderstood and compare their bodies to others on social media.

The survey polled over 2,300 people diagnosed with an eating disorder or who engage in disordered eating. Nearly half said most people are either not understanding or critical of their illness. Many more reported they believe they are perceived as "attention-seeking," "vain" or "selfish."

Many also reported being extremely conscious of how their bodies are portrayed on social media: they use social media to compare their bodies to others' and work to control which photos of them appear online.

About 20 million women and 10 million men have eating disorders, and many more are undiagnosed or have disordered eating habits. Sixty-one percent of respondents had thought about committing suicide, and one-quarter have attempted it. Similarly:

  • 61 percent have considered self-harm, like cutting or burning; more than half have done it;
  • 50 percent have been hospitalized;
  • 66 percent have been diagnosed with depression and/or anxiety;
  • 87 percent said their eating issues keep them from going out with friends, 67 percent said it interfered with being intimate with a partner;
  • 80 percent say family and friends have played a key role in development of their eating disorder or disordered eating; and
  • of the 64% of respondents who had visited so-called pro-anorexia or "pro-ana" websites and 75 percent said they frequent the sites for "thinspiration."

"The results of this survey reveal that many people struggling with an eating disorder feel extremely invalidated, which plays a huge part in perpetuating their battle," said Erin Kleifield, Ph.D., director of the eating disorder program at Silver Hill Hospital. "Myths and misconceptions about eating disorders continue to endure.

"The results of this survey also show how social media exerts a very powerful influence; unfortunately, it's often a very negative and damaging one. Instead of websites which promote and strengthen eating disorder attitudes and behaviors, we need social media venues that can help people strengthen healthy self-esteem and an authentic sense of self."

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