#anasoldier, #beatana, #edwarrior, #edfamily, #togetherwecan

If you saw these hashtags on your teen’s Instagram account, would you know what they meant?

I wouldn’t have—until I read this recent article. These are just a few of the Instagram hashtags commonly used by teens and young adults to find each other in a community of people recovering from eating disorders.

Ana=anorexia, Ed=eating disorders.

When you search for “recovery” on Instagram, you’ll find thousands of people, mostly young women, who are sharing their eating disorder recovery stories. You’ll find before-and-after mirror pictures, snapshots of their meals, and inspirational quotes, but above all, you’ll find a community of young women who support each other.

Instagram encouraging recovery

For sure, there are some worrisome things about social media and how teens use it. But one of the better aspects of social media is the sense of connection you can find there. Have a rare disease? A fashionable grandfather? Or a passion for Leonardo diCaprio? You’re not alone. IMHO (that’s teen slang for “in my humble opinion”) that's the best thing about teens using Instagram: No matter who you are, or what you’re into, you can instantly connect with other people who are right there with you.

As a result, Instagram is home to all kinds of groups—including groups of recovering anorexics and bulimics.

Eating disorders are really complicated diseases that are grossly misunderstood. Everyone has a different recovery process.

Allie Silverberg, 20-year-old anorexia sufferer, currently in recovery

Teens use these hashtags (#anasoldier, #beatana) to find each other and connect. It can be a very positive part of recovery for a teen who is battling an eating disorder.

According to the article, 19-year-old Jordi Stephens has been dealing with anorexia and bulimia for over four years. She's now in recovery and says there’s a great sense of community among the eating disorder accounts on Instagram.

There have been many times when going through a recovery account calmed me down or reaffirmed what I needed to hear. Seeing someone who has done what you’re trying to do and hearing them talk about self-love and happiness … that helps.

Jordi Stephens, age 19

But it’s not always positive.

Like virtually everything online there’s also a downside. When a teen isn’t making progress or getting outside help, the photos and groups can actually inspire continued disordered eating. There are just as many hashtags encouraging girls to pursue "thinspiration" as there are pushing them toward recovery. (The hashtags for "pro-anorexia" groups are constantly changing as Instagram attempts to ban their use. So #thinspiration, #thinspo have been replaced by #th1nsp and #thh1nsp0. It's an arms race you can read more about here.)

Awareness is half the battle

By definition, teens are vulnerable and struggling with their identity. As parents, part of our job is to know what’s going on behind our children’s eyes. That’s not easy when part of normal adolescent development demands privacy and independence.

If your child is wrestling with disordered eating there are ways you can help. You can start by recognizing their struggle. Here’s a great resource outlining the sometimes subtle symptoms.

For more than 30 years, Dr. Judith Brisman has been working with clients with eating disorders in Manhattan. She founded the first center dedicated to the treatment of bulimia, now known as the Eating Disorder Resource Center. While Brisman pointed out that "any way that these kids can connect and support themselves around eating is positive," she emphasized the importance of understanding that eating disorders are part of a "bigger psychological problem," not simply a desire to be thin.

Check out the resources below if you want to know more. And remember—we're all in this together. Your teen might not struggle with an eating disorder, but chances are sooner or later she'll know someone who does. Be a force for good in the world and #educateyourselfaboutED.

RESOURCES:

The latest research into eating disorder causes and promising treatments: