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Navigating TikTok While in Recovery

By: Liz Rae, BS, Clinical Intern at The Renfrew Center of Bethesda, MD

As we continue to social distance in an effort to stay healthy, many of us have turned to social media for entertainment and connection with our friends. With 689 million users worldwide, TikTok is one of the most popular forms of social media. If you’re unfamiliar, TikTok is a short-form, video-sharing social media platform that allows its users to post 15 to 60 second clips on almost any topic.

With its massive number of users, it’s no surprise food and eating disorders are some of the topics people use their platforms to speak about. There are videos of people talking about the ups and downs of their recovery and providing support to those struggling, as seen in videos where the creator is encouraging the watcher to take a bite with them.

Conversely, there are also videos of people encouraging eating disorder behaviors that can cause significant distress to those in recovery. While TikTok has taken the initiative to provide support resources when one searches terms such as “eating disorders,” videos without those specific tags still slip through the cracks.

Interacting with one of these videos can lead to your “For You Page” to become flooded with eating disorder and food-related videos. Even if you interacted with the more “positive” videos, some of the more triggering content can flood into your page. If you do find yourself in this situation, here are some tips to push through:

  • Disengage with the video and use mindfulness to stay in the present. Keep scrolling or block the video. By blocking the video, you will prevent yourself from further experiencing additional unnecessary distress. Using mindfulness techniques, such as scented lotion or square breathing, can help you remain anchored in the moment.
  • Disconnect from social media and connect with supports instead. Take time away from TikTok and other social media applications. Set limits for how much time you will spend on social media and try reaching out to a trusted family member or friend.
  • Use creativity to express and validate your emotions. Take time to create something, such as a painting, drawing, poem, or song to help you explore your emotions. This can be especially important when supports are unavailable!

About the Author:
Liz Rae, BS, is a clinical intern at The Renfrew Center of Bethesda. She is a third-year student at George Washington University pursuing her master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Biopsychology from Tufts University in 2016.

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