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The Impact of Social Media on Women’s Wellbeing

Mental health impacts every race, religion, gender, and age. While it affects everyone, certain conditions, such as depression, anxiety, body dysmorphic disorder, and eating disorders, are more prevalent among women. Statistics show that anxiety is 23% higher for women than men and depression is approximately 50% higher for women. 

A significant contributor to this gender disparity is the influence of social media. People seemingly leading perfect lives on social media can distort our perception of reality, fostering the false belief that everyone else has flawless bodies and is untouched by mental health struggles. However, this narrative is far from true, as many individuals grapple with challenges that are hidden behind the screen due to the stigma associated with opening up about these struggles.

It’s essential to recognize that the pressure women feel to conform to an idealized standard hinders them from sharing less-than-perfect aspects of their lives. Comparing ourselves to meticulously crafted images on Instagram can lead to feelings of shame and dissatisfaction with our own appearance. Research has demonstrated a strong link between consuming appearance-centric content and increased rates of depression and anxiety among adolescent girls.

Our Speaker’s Bureau member Aires Adalim has said that social media has been a detriment to her mental health in the past. “Social media negatively impacted my ability to focus on everyday tasks … I could only feel ‘relaxed’ and ‘focused’ if I was on my phone. It got worse when I became sleep-deprived and ate less because I was constantly on my phone. With other life factors in play during this time, it resulted in my diagnosis of Depression, which then added more to my lack of sleep and loss of appetite. It ultimately caused me to lose weight and, despite ‘looking healthier’ when I looked in the mirror, I didn’t feel like I was my genuine, authentic self at all. Even when I got complimented for being skinnier, I hated it, because I still felt this emotional heaviness inside. It was the fact that I only just so happened to lose weight because I was neglecting my self-care. I had gotten thinner, yes, but at the cost of my mental health spiraling to its lowest point.”

Just because you can’t see someone’s mental illness online, doesn’t mean they aren’t grappling with internal struggles. For instance, an estimated 20 million women in America have an eating disorder. While the conversation around these conditions is becoming more prevalent on social media, there are still many people who don’t feel comfortable sharing their story and experience. 

If the negative influence of social media is affecting how you feel about your body, consider taking a digital detox. Temporarily removing yourself from social media apps can provide some relief from self-critical thoughts, allowing for a healthier perspective.

It is essential to dispel the myth that those who appear perfect online are free from mental health challenges. If you are struggling with a mental illness, you are not alone and resources are available. If you think you have an eating disorder and would like support, call the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders Helpline at 1 (888) 375-7767 available from 7 am – 7 pm PT. 

If you or a loved one are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 74174.