Individuals with eating disorders and the use of online support groups as a form of social support


The increase in Internet use in recent years has fostered the development of online support groups to help individuals cope with a range of conditions The aim of this study was to examine the nature and types of social support that was exchanged between participants of an online anorexia discussion forum. A deductive thematic analysis of 325 messages posted to a bulletin board suggested that one of the primary functions of the group was the communication of encouragement and esteem, and information support notably in terms of diagnosis, treatment and interaction with health care 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 centres. Computer-mediated support groups provide a low cost, easily accessible self-help service to individuals with eating disorders and may provide an important venue through which information, advice and support can be offered and received.

eating disorder; internet; social support
Author biographies

Abby McCormack

Author photoAbby McCormack is a Masters graduate from the University of Nottingham

Neil S. Coulson

Author photoDr Neil S. Coulson is an Associate Professor of Health Psychology at the University of Nottingham. His research interests focus on the role of the internet in supporting the needs of individuals living with a range of health-related problems.

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