Kari Gerth


Cultivating Eating Disorders Through Social Media: Exploring Social Media as a Barrier to Accessing Eating Disorder Treatment in Adolescents


Eating disorders are a devastating mental illness with the second highest mortality rate among mental illnesses, behind opioid use (Thompson & Park, 2016). Eating disorders tend to develop in the early adolescent years and have both psychological and physical implications (Ali et al., 2020). Despite the evidence-based practices that are beneficial in the treatment of eating disorders, over 75% of those diagnosed with an eating disorder fail to seek treatment. This is due to various barriers (Tillman et al., 2012), such as cultural stigma, access to care, and financial limitations (Ali et al., 2020; Thompson & Park, 2016). Cultivation and objectification theories have been used as frameworks to explore and understand these barriers and why treatment is so low. Media and social media were inundated with the idealized, thin, and often edited content of women’s bodies, which frequently consisted of looks that were nearly impossible to achieve. Numerous studies found a correlation between the development of eating disorder symptoms and social media content (Hesse-Biber et al., 2006). Gaps in treatment and understanding of the development of eating disorders have existed for a long time. Being able to understand barriers to seeking treatment and the role social media has on the development of eating disorders can help minimize this disparity in accessing care and treatment. It is essential to explore how reducing barriers by increasing access to care, reducing cultural stigma, and increasing funding can positively impact eating disorder treatment.


Kari Gerth, MSW, LCSW, is a dedicated clinician and researcher committed to advancing the understanding and treatment of eating disorders, particularly in adolescents. She holds a Master of Social Work from The Ohio State University (2015) and a Baccalaureate of Psychology from the University of South Florida (2012). Currently a Doctoral Candidate at the University of Kentucky, Kari serves as the Lead Outpatient Clinician with the UK Adolescent Medicine Eating Disorder Program.

With a passion for exploring why individuals with eating disorders avoid treatment and the challenges surrounding insurance coverage, Kari has made this the focus of her research as a doctoral student. Her capstone project, Cultivating Eating Disorders Through Social Media: Exploring Social Media as a Barrier to Accessing Eating Disorder Treatment in Adolescents, seeks to better understand these issues. The Kentucky Eating Disorder Council recently recognized her dedication and expertise with eating disorders as she was awarded the “2024 Champion Award for Prevention and Education of Eating Disorders.”

Additionally, Kari is an active presenter and educator within the community. She has presented on topics such as “Eating Disorders During the Holidays” on Spectrum News (2022) and “Mental Health First Aid for Teens” at Anderson County EMS (2022). Additionally, she delivered a presentation to medical students on “Family Based Treatment for Eating Disorders” at UK Adolescent Medicine (2021). Through her multifaceted contributions to research, clinical practice, and education, Kari Gerth continues to make significant contributions to eating disorder treatment and awareness.