TikTok is now offering support for users struggling with eating disorders

Partnering with experts, TikTok has put in new measures to give its users support and advice on dealing with misinformation and negative body image.

by Tom George
24 February 2021, 12:37pm

Image from TikTok

Following on from an investigation by the social media platform into the increasingly pro-anorexia content landing on users FYPs, TikTok has announced new steps to counter misinformation surrounding eating disorders, including resources for those seeking help and tips on how to recognise your own negative thinking.

“At TikTok, we want every member of our community to feel comfortable and confident expressing themselves exactly as they are,” a statement from the platform read. “We're constantly inspired by stories of our community members lifting up one another and supporting those who are affected by body image and eating disorders. To aid these conversations, we're introducing new resources to provide access to help from expert organizations directly from our app.”

Partnering with the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), TikTok has announced that starting this week hashtags such as #edrecovery and #proana, when searched, will guide users to the NEDA helpline where they can find support and information on treatment. Alongside the helpline will be in-app expert-developed advice on how to identify body dysmorphic thoughts, ways to look after yourself and how to support a friend who might be dealing with an eating disorder.

TikTok has also announced permanent PSAs that will be pushed on some of the most offending hashtags such as #whatieatinaday or #emotionaleatingtips. The idea is to create a wider awareness of eating disorders and foster support for users who may be considering recovery or are yet to reach out for help. With it currently being NEDAwareness Week, the discover page will be hosting a conversation surrounding body image, food and exercise and the systemic biases that uphold eating disorders and negative self-thinking.

This comes just as Instagram announced similar updates, with users searching for words or phrases associated with negative body image getting a pop-up message warning them of the dangers of the content and asking if they would like to seek support. However, an investigation by CNET has found that Instagram’s parent platform Facebook has yet to put in any resources or support for those searching similar terms.

When a workout video on the FYP can sometimes spiral into content promoting disordered eating and dangerous diets, TikTok’s updates are welcome. Currently, it’s not quite clear how the app plans to address the issue of eating disorder content bypassing regulations through purposeful misspellings of hashtags -- with this content sometimes being much more serious. However, in the meantime there’s no doubt that these updates are a necessary first step that will hopefully bring support to many TikTok users.

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mental health
eating disorder