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Instagram, TikTok add resources to support users who have eating disorders

Both apps will offer information from organizations like the National Eating Disorders Association.

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Instagram's new search feature offers resources to users who might need help. 

Angela Lang/CNET

Instagram and TikTok on Monday added new resources to offer support to users who have negative body image or eating disorders

Facebook, which owns Instagram, said it's expanding its work with experts to better inform policies for more positive content. In the Instagram app, if you search a particular word or phrase associated with negative body image or eating disorders, instead of presenting search results, a message pops up asking if Instagram can be of any help.

"Posts with words you're searching for often encourage behavior that can cause harm and even lead to death," the message says. "If you're going through something difficult, we'd like to help."

Users can tap a blue button labeled Get Support, or they can tap See Results to continue with their search. The pop-up message could give users a moment of reflection that might prompt them to seek help, or to reword a search so as not to see potentially triggering content if they're in recovery from an eating disorder. 

If you choose the Get Support option, Instagram will offer a few options, like contacting a friend. You can also choose to talk with a helpline volunteer. Instagram links to more than a dozen hotlines for resources like the National Eating Disorders Association, the Trevor Project and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, among others. Instagram also has other tips to help when in a crisis, like deep breathing, putting off decisions for 24 hours, taking a walk, drinking water and more.

Tips and support on TikTok. 

TikTok

TikTok is rolling out similar features. Starting this week, if you search for hashtags or phrases related to eating disorders, TikTok will provide access to the NEDA helpline. The app will also provide tips "developed with eating disorders experts on how to identify negative self-talk, think about one's own positive attributes and strengths, or support a friend who may be struggling," TikTok said in a blog post. 

TikTok said it's also introducing permanent public service announcements, developed with input from the NEDA, on some hashtags to drive awareness and foster support around people affected by eating disorders. 

Pinterest has a similar safeguard feature. When users search for certain phrases or words, the app offers a link to NEDA's website for further resources. Tumblr also has a pop-up message for potentially triggering or dangerous searches. 

When CNET searched similar terms on the Facebook app, however, there didn't appear to be any resources that generate simply by searching for a given word.

Facebook didn't respond to a request for comment.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.