Eating Disorders and the Internet

This article examines the rise of eating disorder websites. Eating disorders are most common in young women (both teenagers and young adults). As this demographic is a also known as a high-level user of the Internet, the proliferation of online eating disorder (ED) communities is of particular concern to ED support groups (ANAD 2006). Eating disorder communities are known a ‘Pro-Ana’, (pro-anorexic) and it is the term used both for their community and to describe an individual. While Pro-Ana is used to describe a person who is ‘pro-anorexic’, Bulimics use the term Pro-Mia (pro-bulimic). In this definition, people who identify as ‘Pro-Anorexic’ or ‘Pro-Bulimic’ embrace their eating disorder and generally consider it a lifestyle choice and not an illness or disorder. Pro-Ana communities are not generally limited to anorexics and generally include bulimics and other eating disorder sufferers within the community.

Pro-Ana websites represent themselves as online communities for those who are existing Anorexics and as such are not intended (as is frequently assumed), to lure non-sufferers into the illness. To the people who join them, they can be ‘a place’ that accepts their status without moral censure or social stigma as well as a site of advice, tips and support from fellow anorexics to help them become ‘better’ anorexics. While some of the Pro-Ana sites will also provide links to recovery and health sites, being ‘Pro-Ana’ symbolises a choice not to go into recovery. For pro-Anorexics, if you identify as ‘Pro-Ana’, then by definition you have chosen to live as an Anorexic or Bulimic at this point in time. The term ‘permarexic’ can also be used to describe those people who choose to live with their ED for the foreseeable future.

Eating Disorders Overview

Eating disorders (EDs) are characterised by a preoccupation with weight that results in severe disturbances in eating and subsequently other behaviours. Eating disorders embrace Anorexia, Bulimia and generic eating disorders such as purging, binging and night eating. The two most high profile eating disorders are Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa. Anorexia can be defined as essentially self-starvation, as this disorder involves a refusal to maintain a minimally normal body weight, a distorted body image and a fear of obesity or weight-gain (CEED 2006). People who have Anorexia generally develop unusual eating habits such as avoiding food and meals, picking out a few foods and eating them in small amounts, weighing their food, and counting the calories of everything they eat. Its incidence is increasing in the Western world and it has been described as one of the most lethal psychiatric disorders (Lucas et al 1999 in Hsu 2001). Sufferers of Bulimia are involved in repeated episodes of binge eating, followed by ways of trying to purge the food from the body to prevent expected weight gain by utilising methods such as self-induced vomiting, misuse of laxatives, enemas, or medications fasting, and/or excessive exercise to control weight (CEED 2006).

Common Aspects of a Pro-Ana Website

In order to research this article, I had to spend some time following dead links and doing diligent searching until I came across some functioning sites that catered to existing eating disorder sufferers. The nature of the public’s attitude towards many of these sites is such that they must change addresses constantly to avoid censure, or close voluntarily as a result of harassment and flaming, or are being arbitrarily closed down by their ISPs. The Pro-Ana communities manage to stay alive by frequently changing site addresses and communicating new web addresses within their community group. 검증사이트

Diaries: Many author’ of these websites offer personal accounts of their battle with anorexia or bulimia and how they struggle with starvation, how they feel about their body image and how they wrestle with taking control of themselves and their self-image. While the intention of some may well be to inspire weight loss among the website readers, the constant struggle and self loathing and self-castigation of the writers does not make Anorexia or Bulimia appear at all attractive. The diaries are also places to keep logs of food intake as well as ‘vent’ about unwelcome attempts by family members or friends to make the blogger recover from the disease, or the struggles she has in hiding her lack of eating from the rest of the world.

Discussion Forums: So that members can discuss their eating, their weight and their feelings. The forums act as both a source of dietary information and dieting support as well as somewhere to share their feelings and disclose in a non-judgemental environment. I observed the members to be very supportive and protective of each other.


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