Digital self-harm is associated with disordered eating behaviors in adults

Janet A. Lydecker, Carlos M. Grilo, Antonia Hamilton, Rachel D. Barnes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Purpose: Eating-disorder psychopathology is associated with self-harm behaviors. With much time spent and many social interactions taking place online, self-cyberbullying has emerged as a new form of self-harm that is digital. The current study examined digital self-harm in adults and its associations with eating-disorder psychopathology and behaviors. Methods: Participants were adults (N = 1794) who completed an online cross-sectional survey. Participants reported whether they had ever posted mean things about themselves online, whether they had ever anonymously bullied themselves online and completed measures of eating-disorder psychopathology and disordered eating behaviors. Results: Digital self-harm was reported by adults across demographic characteristics and across the lifespan, although there were some significant differences in demographic characteristics associated with reported digital self-harm. Participants who engaged in digital self-harm were younger than those denying digital self-harm. Eating-disorder psychopathology and disordered eating behaviors were significantly higher among individuals reporting digital self-harm compared with age-matched controls. Conclusions: This was the first study to examine digital self-harm among adults and the first study to examine associations of digital self-harm with eating-disorder psychopathology and disordered eating behaviors. Importantly, digital self-harm is reported by adults and therefore is not limited to youth. Our findings that digital self-harm is associated with disordered eating suggests that digital self-harm is a clinically significant topic that needs further research to inform clinical practice and clinical research. Level of evidence: Level III, Evidence obtained from well-designed cohort or case-controlled analytic studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2129-2136
Number of pages8
JournalEating and Weight Disorders
Issue number6
StatePublished - Aug 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Switzerland AG.


  • Cyberbullying
  • Disordered eating
  • Self-harm
  • Weight


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