Facebook usage among those who have received treatment for an eating disorder in a group setting

Kristina Saffran, Ellen E. Fitzsimmons-Craft, Andrea E. Kass, Denise E. Wilfley, Craig Barr Taylor, Mickey Trockel*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations

Abstract

Objective: This study explored Facebook use among individuals with a history of receiving treatment for an eating disorder (ED) in a group setting (e.g., inpatient, residential, outpatient group), focusing primarily on comparisons individuals make about their bodies, eating, or exercise to those of their peers from treatment on Facebook and the relation between these comparisons and ED pathology. Method: Individuals (N = 415; mean age 28.15 years ± 8.41; 98.1% female) who self-reported receipt of ED treatment in a group setting were recruited via e-mail and social media to complete an online survey. Results: Participants reported having an average of 10–19 Facebook friends from treatment and spending up to 30 min per day interacting on Facebook with individuals from treatment or ED-related organizations. More comparison to treatment peers on Facebook was associated with greater ED psychopathology and ED-related impairment. Conversely, positive interaction with treatment peers on Facebook was associated with lower ED psychopathology and ED-related impairment. Individuals who had been in treatment longer, more times, and more recently had more Facebook friends from treatment and ED-related organizations as well as spent more time in ED groups' pages on Facebook. Few participants (19.5%) reported that a therapist asked about the impact of Facebook on pathology. Discussion: Interactions on Facebook could affect patients' recovery and potential for relapse. It may be helpful for treatment providers to discuss Facebook use and its potential benefits and drawbacks with patients preparing for discharge from group treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)764-777
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Eating Disorders
Volume49
Issue number8
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 1 2016

Keywords

  • Facebook
  • eating disorders
  • group treatment
  • social media

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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