Social Media & Depression

In 2011, while working at the Eating Disorders program at Cooper Clinic in Dallas, talk was circulating between dieticians and clinical psychology staff about a study that had linked social media use to disordered eating. The study out of Australia showed that within 30 seconds of scrolling in Facebook, social media users would show signs of depression and that this change in mood often led to poor body image and disordered cognitions around food. In 2016, the NIH and National Cancer Institute studied the question again []. Their findings were consistent with previous studies – social media use contributes to depressed mood and a disordered relationship with food. In 2020, the NIH studied the question of social media and depression in adolescents. The study can be read here []. The study showed there is a link between social media use and adolescent depression. While social media allows for an immediate connection to a support system, the current structure and context of social media has the potential to negatively contribute to depression.

Anecdotally, at Embrace, when conducting behavior chain analysis with our clients, we find that social media use is often an antecedent to food restriction and purging behaviors in teens and adults. We also find that where depressive symptoms are present, while not always the cause, social media use often exasperates depressed mood.

What does research say that parents can do? Parental involvement is key. Empowering your teen and yourself to avoid negative content, select positive content, critically evaluate body-related content, psychologically distance from and positively reframing challenging content are all important.

So the answer to this question is ‘yes’, social media use can cause or contribute to depression. If you or your teen need help with depression, disordered eating or negative body image issues, our counselors and coaches are here to help. Call or Text our Intake Specialist at 972.292.7092 to be matched with a provider.

Weight management is a medical issue that is best treated under the supervision of your physician and dietician.



  • Can a therapist help navigate the decision of screen time and social media usage?

Certainly! A therapist can provide invaluable assistance in navigating the decision of screen time and social media usage. Whether you find yourself uncertain about whether to limit your screen time or delete your social media accounts entirely, a therapist’s guidance can be instrumental in helping you find clarity and make informed choices. Regardless of whether you are an avid user of social media or only use it casually, a therapist can equip you with various tools and strategies to live a healthy and fulfilling life in the digital age. Their expertise can empower you to strike a balance between your online activities and your overall well-being, ensuring that you are able to establish healthier habits and adopt a more conscious approach to your screen time and social media usage.

  • Should individuals limit their screen time or erase their social media accounts?

In today’s increasingly connected world, the question of whether individuals should limit their screen time or erase their social media accounts is a complex one. On one hand, social media platforms can provide avenues for connection, community building, and learning. They allow us to stay in touch with friends and family, connect with like-minded individuals, and access a wealth of information and resources. However, it is important to acknowledge that excessive use of social media can have negative repercussions on our mental and physical well-being. Research has shown that spending excessive time on social media can contribute to feelings of anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. Moreover, the habit of constantly checking our social media feeds can disrupt our sleep patterns and lead to increased sedentary behavior, which in turn can negatively impact our overall health. That being said, the decision to limit screen time or delete social media accounts is a personal one, and there is no one-size-fits-all answer. Some individuals may find that setting boundaries around their social media usage, such as designating specific times for engagement or limiting the number of platforms they use, can help strike a balance between the benefits and drawbacks of social media. Others may feel that taking a break from social media altogether is necessary for their mental well-being. This can be a valuable opportunity to reconnect with the present moment, focus on real-life relationships, and cultivate other hobbies and interests that may have been neglected. If you find yourself uncertain about whether to limit your screen time or delete your social media accounts, seeking guidance from a therapist can be beneficial. A therapist can help you navigate the decision-making process by considering your individual circumstances, discussing potential benefits and challenges, and providing strategies for healthy digital engagement. Ultimately, it is essential to remember that technology, including social media, is a tool that can be used in positive and negative ways. By being mindful of our usage, setting boundaries, and seeking help when needed, we can harness the benefits of social media while protecting our well-being in the digital age.

  • How can cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) be used to address smartphone or internet addiction?

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) offers effective strategies to address smartphone or internet addiction by focusing on reducing compulsive behaviors and improving emotional coping skills. With CBT, clients learn to recognize and challenge negative thought patterns and irrational beliefs that contribute to addictive behaviors. Therapists help clients understand the underlying emotions driving excessive social media usage and teach them healthier ways to manage these emotions. By combining cognitive restructuring and behavioral modification techniques, CBT equips individuals with the necessary tools to better control their smartphone or internet usage and ultimately reduce addiction-related symptoms.

  • Is online therapy as effective as face-to-face counseling?

Research has demonstrated that online therapy can be just as effective as face-to-face counseling. In a recent 2019 study, it was found that a four-week online cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) program successfully alleviated symptoms of insomnia and depression among shift workers, leading to improvements in overall well-being and sleep quality. Furthermore, online therapists have also utilized treatments like CBT to address issues such as smartphone or internet addiction. By employing CBT techniques, online therapy has been successful in reducing compulsive behaviors and enhancing individuals’ capacity to manage uncomfortable emotions that contribute to excessive social media use. These findings provide strong evidence in support of the effectiveness of online therapy as a viable alternative to traditional face-to-face counseling.