Eating Disorders Are Serious!
  • Second highest mortality rate of all mental health disorders, surpassed only by opioid addiction. — NEDA
  • 20 million women and 10 million men in America will have an eating disorder at some point in their lives. — NEDA

Eating Disorders are not just a fad or a phase. They are serious, potentially life-threatening conditions. Unlike diseases with sophisticated diagnose criteria or observing symptoms, eating disorders happen with little warning signs. There are people using eating disorder behaviors for different reasons, without recognizing the danger of the behaviors or knowing the risk of developing a serious mental illness. There are other people aware of the illness but don’t seek or receive help and treatment for objective or subjective concerns. It is worth pointing out that eating disorder mentalities or behaviors can be contagious amongst public thanks to dieting culture and body image discriminations on media.

Why Dieting Forums?
  • In a large study of14- and 15- year-olds, dieting is the most important predictor to eating disorders. Moderate dieters are 5x more likely to develop eating disorders, extreme restricting dieters are 18x more likely. — Pediatrics, 138(3).
  • Americans spend over $60 billion on dieting and diet products each year. — Health Education Research, 21(5).
  • Social media is fostering a dieting culture that encourages eating disorders. Online forums, subreddits, create an anonymous communication space for both dieting and eating disorders communities.

Unlike other formats of social media, online forums, like ‘reddit’, create an anonymous communicating space for people who want to discuss similar topics, or share similar experiences. People using online forums can worry less about what others think of them, they can share personal opinions or stories under less pressure of external judgements, and feel more free to show authentic self against internal tendency of trying to impress others. Thus, collecting posts, mainly text data, from online forums objectively reserves first-hand information which have higher chance to reveal users’ authentic thoughts.

We will collect and examine posts from http://www.reddit.com, several ‘subreddit’ forums are entitled with eating disorder related topics, such as Bulimia, Anorexia, and BingeEatingDisorders. Meanwhile, posts from dieting-focused forums are also available on the reddit platform.

How Can Data Science Help?
  • EDetectives — Machine Learning / Deep Learning project building an NLP Classifier
  • Monitor eating disorders mentalities or behaviors in a post
  • Early detect a dieting post that shows higher risks of eating disorders.

From data science’s perspective, text is more of a special data format which contains tremendous information about linguistics, anthropology, psychology, human behaviors, etc. By analyzing eating disorders posts, we hope to generate insights about how this mental illness affect people’s life.

Text mining, or exploratory text analytics, allows us to look for topical patterns in a certain category of forums.We will apply BOW, tf-idf and other unsupervised topic modeling methods to posts in ‘eating disorders’ forums, ‘dieting’ forums and general health-related forums, and have a better look at statistical characteristics of those topical texts.

Once we have the labeled dataset, we will use text classification algorithms in machine learning and deep learning, to train parameters for different kinds of models, such as Naive Bayes, NLP and LSTM models. With accuracy evaluation, we will use unsupervised topic models on categorized results for further insights and validation.

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