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Keywords

Eating disorders, Online support groups, Social support

 

Authors

  1. MCCORMACK, ABBY BA, MSc

Abstract

The increase in Internet use in recent years has fostered the development of online support groups to help individuals cope with a number of conditions. Individuals with eating disorders may particularly benefit from such groups as they provide a means of sharing experiences, knowledge, and support with like-minded individuals without the anxiety and worry of others negatively evaluating their appearance. The aim of this study was to examine the nature and types of social support that took place on an anorexia discussion forum. The deductive thematic analysis of 325 messages indicates that the primary function of the group was the communication of encouragement and esteem and information support notably in terms of diagnosis, treatment, and interaction with healthcare specialists. Considering the high rate of relapse among individuals with eating disorders, it is imperative that some form of support is available when they leave treatment centers. Regulated computer-mediated support groups provide a low-cost, easily accessible self-help service to individuals with eating disorders.