I was shocked to read the contents of this article. There are actually web-sites and other folks who encourage young people into believing that Anorexia is actually a good thing. It’s more widespread than you might imagine. This is well Allan
This articled is reproduced in its entirety with permission from the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders.
EATING DISORDERS AND THE INTERNET
A parental overview of deadly eating disorder hazards on the Internet.
How to identify them and what to do about them.
Unfortunately many people still have the incorrect belief that eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa afflict only rich skinny white girls.
The reality is that eating disorders are deadly, chronic diseases that afflict more than 8 million Americans and cross all demographic, racial and ethnic boundaries. The vast majority of eating disorder sufferers are female.
More than 80% of sufferers exhibit their first symptoms prior to the age of twenty; some exhibit symptoms as early as the age of ten or younger.
At best the sufferer of an eating disorder can expect a fight for her/his life that can extend from one year to the lifespan of the sufferer. At worst, the scenario can be a long slow death.
WHY PARENTS SHOULD BE CONCERNED ABOUT ONLINE PRO EATING DISORDER LOCATIONS
The technology of the Internet allows the spread or information about how to mimic or to be anorexic with lightening-like rapidity. Unfortunately, many of the internet locations that advocate eating disorders as glamorous exhibit chameleon-like deviousness in disguising themselves as something other than the deadly dangerous information centers they are.
For example, the following warning appears on the front page of a popular pro-anorexia internet discussion group, Hard Core Anorexic (Name changed).
“For girls who are hardcore about being skinny.
But on the contrary,
We are not in anyway trying to encouraging ED!
But, we ARE Pro-Ana/Mia.
If you are trying to/are recover/recovered, don’t join.
It is on Internet locations such as Hard Core Anorexic and countless others, women separated by geography; age and lifestyle log in to share their struggles, goals, triumphs and failures in living a “pro-ana” lifestyle.
Anorexia, long the staple of after-school specials and public service announcements, may have fallen off the national radar screen, edged out by public panic about obesity.
Nevertheless with increasing access to new media, those with (or claiming to have) eating disorders have congregated outside of hospitals and clinics, crafting a thriving pro-eating disorder community on the internet.
While some of those with eating disorders seek and develop recovery oriented spaces online, others, such as the members of Hard Core Anorexic, specifically cultivate “pro-ana” communities.”
ANAD has been battling pro-ana/pro-mia web sites since 2001 trying to remove these deadly purveyors of information from the Internet and raise the awareness of parents that their children may be obtaining information that can jeopardize their health or eventually kill them.
The advance of Internet technology has seen a rapid increase in locations on the Internet because it has become increasing easier and more appealing for teens to create their own online content.
According to research done for the PEW Internet & American Life project “57% of teens who use the Internet could be considered Content Creators. They have created a blog or web page, posted original artwork, photography, stories, or videos.”
It is estimated that as many as one in four adolescents are worried about their weight and they are either contemplating a diet or actually dieting.
The predominant majority of these dieters are female, but males are also included in lesser numbers. Many of these teens are preoccupied with shaping their bodies to match the anorexic looking figures that the fashion and advertising industries launch with authority.
The result is a thriving online subculture characterized by specific symbols, rituals and the identity of the wannarexic.
The confluence of teens who are often much more enthusiastic authors and readers of blogs than their adult counterparts and the subculture of wannarexics that is composed by teens create a fertile mixture for the spread of pro ana and pro mia information on the internet.
Teen bloggers, led by older girls, are a major part of this tech-savvy cohort. Teen bloggers are more fervent internet users than non-bloggers and have more experience with almost every online activity in the survey.
WHO IS AND WHAT IS A WANNAREXIC?
A wannarexic could be your daughter or son.
THE URBAN DICTIONARY defines wannarexic as, “Someone who wishes or pretends they have an eating disorder or deliberately goes out of their way to make it look like they have anorexia.”
The prevalence of fashion and media pressure to be thin produces a result that means that there is better than a ten percent chance that if your child is an adolescent girl she binges or purges.
While these activities don’t necessarily mean the person exhibiting these conditions has anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa, or binge eating disorder it does mean she/he is undertaking activities that can be harmful and lead to chronic and life threatening eating disorders.
Just a few unwanted results can include rotten teeth, and in adolescent females the interruption of menstrual cycles.
In an effort to meet her frequently unhealthy and unrealistically weight goal, the wannarexic will go online to learn what laxatives, or diuretics or, extreme diets, or other unhealthy advice she can use to force her body to conform to the pressures of the body image with which the fashion and advertising industry constantly bombard her.
The wannarexic may even learn online what intestinal parasites are considered safe to take to lose weight.
Thus, countless otherwise healthy adolescent women become preoccupied with starving themselves and deifying anorexic role models rather than practicing good health and having healthy body images.
ANAD opts to keep the reference to the web site that discusses the use of internal parasites confidential in order not to provide this source to wannarexics and those suffering from eating disorders.
WHAT PARENTS SHOULD LOOK FOR: INDICATORS OF EATING DISORDERS
Being extremely thin is not necessarily an indication a child may be suffering from an eating disorder.
In fact, a downward and unexplained weight loss over a period of time could be a sign of other health problems.
If a child or teen has an unexplained downward loss of weight one should consider making appointment with the child’s medical doctor for a complete physical examination. Also prior to the examination the parents should be on the lookout for other signs of eating disorders.
There are a range of symptoms and activities that the sufferer of eating disorders will exhibit. Not all victims display all symptoms; abnormal weight loss, refusal to eat, except for tiny portions,binge eating,vomiting, abuse of laxatives, diuretics, emetics, diet pills, and other over the counter and prescription medications.
Denial of hunger, excessive exercise, distorted body image can lead young women to see themselves as fat even though they may be so thin they are emaciated, depression, preoccupation with food, absent or irregular menstruation, and rotted teeth from vomiting.
Many times the sufferer will deny she has a problem and attempt to disguise the symptoms.
It is not unexpected that sufferers learn how to hide their symptoms or weight loss online.
For example, the web site Tricks (name changed) provides 40 tips on anorexic and bulimic behavior, another 15 suggestions on how to hide one’s anorexic or bulimic behavior, how to erase history of the sites one has visited on the Internet, and more.
THE INTERNET IS A PRIMARY SOURCE OF UNHEALTHY AND EVEN DEADLY EATING DISORDERS INFORMATION.
The previous example should alert parents to be concerned about the information their child may be getting from the Internet.
The parent should be aware of the likely places the child will receive dangerous information on how to lose weight.
Many parents are surprised to learn that there are Internet web sites and social networking communities, groups, and forums that support anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and associated disorders.
These parents are unaware that the Internet supports web sites, communities, groups and forums that espouse anorexia, bulimia and other eating disorders as a way of life.
The findings of a pilot study which was published in the Journal of Pediatrics investigated “the awareness and usage of pro–eating disorder web sites among adolescents with eating disorders and their parents, exploring associations with health and quality of life.
The conclusion of this pilot study was that pro–eating disorder site usage was prevalent among adolescents with eating disorders yet parents had little knowledge of this.
Usage may have a negative impact on quality of life and result in adolescents’ learning about and adopting disordered eating behaviors.”
PEDIATRICS Vol. 118 No. 6 December 2006, pp. e1635-e1643 (doi:10.1542/peds.2006-1133)
HOW PREVALENT ARE PRO EATING DISORDER LOCATIONS ON THE INTERNET?
A Google search will turn up countless web sites and internet locations where pro ana and pro mia information and lifestyles are discussed, deified and GLORIFIED.
These sites and communities are so prevalent on the Internet they even have their own definitions. For example the web site
About dot com defines: “Pro ana Definition: An abbreviated form of “pro-anorexia.” A pro-ana web site is one which promotes anorexia nervosa as noble and beneficial. Pronunciation: PRO-AN-a Also Known As pro-anorexia. Alternate Spellings: pro ana. Common misspellings: pro-anna. Examples: Since recovery from her anorexia was so difficult, Katie was very drawn to the pro-ana web site.
About dot com defines Pro Mia Definition: An abbreviation of “pro-bulimia,” a name applied to a philosophy that promotes bulimia as noble and desirable. Generally applied to certain web sites. Pronunciation: PRO-MEE-ah. Examples: Noel decided that her bulimia was too important to her to give up; she started visiting pro-mia web sites.
ANAD’S DEFINITION OF PRO-ANA, PRO-MIA AND OTHER EATING DISORDER INTERNET SITES AND LOCATIONS
ANAD defines “Pro-ana, pro-mia and other sites and communities as online locations that share and dispense information to sufferers of eating disorders that glamorize eating disorders.
These sites and communities also share information and photos relating to the deification of anorexia or bulimia, supporting those who are substituting on a few hundred calories a day, exhorting them to be strongly misusing over-the-counter and prescription drugs such as laxatives and diuretics,self harm, purging, use of intestinal parasites, and the use of triggering photos of anorexic individuals that are used for inspiration.
Detailed information on extreme diets that are as low as or lower than 400 calories a day. The creators of these web sites, or bogs, or forums, or groups encourage and support sufferers to continue these practices.
ANAD POSITION STATEMENT RELATIVE TO THE INTERNET
Anorexia kills. Despite this hard fact, frequently the corporations that host pro eating disorder sites and social networking communities will hide behind freedom of speech as an excuse for allowing pro ana and pro mia internet sites and communities to continue to exist.
ANAD believes there is no excuse for corporations to host and harbor online pro-ana, pro-mia and other pro-eating disorder locations.
ANAD believes these champions of misery to innocent children must be removed.
ANAD along with therapists, treatment centers, and eating disorder health care professionals everywhere all agree such information is at the very best unhealthy and at the very worst is deadly.
Vivian Hanson Meehan, D.Sc, and founder and president of ANAD writes “providing tips to anxiety ridden, prepubescent or pubescent individuals who want to adopt this lifestyle promotes life adjustment failures, shortened stature, osteoporosis, in female’s endangerment of the reproductive system, heart attacks and death.”
Dr. Maria Rago, Eating Disorder Therapist, ANAD Board Member and parent, reviewed a social networking group that claims to be the largest pro anorexia community on the Internet.
Dr. Rago’s observations about the content of the “World’s Largest Pro-anorexia Community” provide some very key insights in establishing whether or not the questionable Internet location is pro ana or pro mia and a potential danger to impressionable adolescents. Here is what she had to say about the location.
“As a parent I am especially frightened of this site.
To imagine a young person coming across this site or pictures like this and being affected is an unnecessary danger.
We will need to work together to stop children and other vulnerable people from being exposed to this kind of propaganda. Viewing this site is disturbing, sad and frightening.
Anorexia and Bulimia are not fun ways to chat and get to know new people. They are deadly illnesses rooted in depression, anxiety and starvation. This site glamorizes and feeds into Anorexia and Bulimia Nervosa.
The site’s very purpose is to support and strengthen the desires to starve and purge. It also serves to promote new information about ways to use more and more dangerous methods to lose weight and avoid eating.
Anorexics and Bulimics naturally compare to each other as part of the disease. This site creates the opportunity to compare to more and more dangerous methods of weight loss and increase the drive and interest, and to increase the severity and frequency of eating disorder behaviors.
I would compare this site to a pro-suicide site which would give depressed and suicidal people methods to kill themselves and feed into a negative, depressed and hopeless view on life.”
Email from Dr. Maria Rago, Clinician and Therapist, Linden Oaks Hospital, IL
HOW TO IDENTIFY PRO-EATING DISORDER INTERNET LOCATIONS
Don’t be misled by claims the location’s purpose and content are to help or that those who are not anorexics should not enter.
If anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa are glamorized, treated as deities or lifestyles and support is given to sufferers to maintain this deadly lifestyle, then despite claims to the contrary, the online location’s purpose is not to help anyone.
Nor is it beneficial if the location provides increasingly dangerous methods to lose weight and avoid eating, the online location’s purpose is not to help anyone.
If there are disparaging comments about how individuals and/or organizations such as ANAD are wrong in condemning pro ana, pro mia or similar sites, the online location’s purpose is unlikely to be positive.
If you as a parent have bad feelings about the content and the information the online location provides its visitors then trust your instinct and question if the online location’s purpose is to actually help anyone.
If you aren’t sure, review ANAD’s list of signs of pro ana and pro mia Internet locations that contain information that can kill. Here is a more complete lists of tale tell indicators that the on-site location could be dangerous or deadly to your child.
Six Signs of Life Threatening Eating Disorder Internet Locations
1. Glamorize, reinforce, anorexia nervosa and associated disorders as desired lifestyles.
2. Focus on weights that are below the generally accepted standards of the medical profession body mass index (BMI).
3. Provide instructions on how to obtain weight reduction goals through the explanation of diets that are so low in calories these diets are far under accepted standards of nutritionists and health officials.
4. Reinforce behaviors that help eating disorders sufferers to reach weigh reduction goals that are harmful and possibly deadly.
5. Provide information of the misuse of drugs in order to induce weight loss through vomiting or bowel movements.
6. Use photos or videos of celebrities, fashion models, or other individuals as roll models who are identified as anorexia.
WHAT PARENTS CAN DO AT HOME TO PROTECT THEIR CHILDREN FROM THE ODIOUS EATING DISORDER SITES
Most Internet guidelines for parents about internet safety are written from the point of view of protecting the child from pornography or child predators.
Some of the general guidelines make equally good sense for protecting children from pro eating disorder sites. These suggestions include:
1. Purchase good software monitoring. According to web monitoring software reviews dot org some of the features and benefits of child monitoring software include:
A. For effective monitoring make sure the program lets you to see all web pages visited, read, sent and received email, and see both sides of IM chats conversations of your child (children)
B. Remote web access that allows you to keep an eye on things from anywhere.
(Imagine keeping an eye on the kids’ Internet activity from your office for instance.) C. Be able to see what your child does when they think no one’s looking, you need a program that’s completely invisible
D. Other features to look for are ability to block, the ability to filter data, and the ability to take screenshots.
2. Keep your child’s computer in a public room of your home so you can indiscreetly monitor activities when you pass by the computer work station.
3. Set age appropriate rules and guidelines for computer use with your child. A. Discuss these rules with children and put a copy near the computer as a reminder.
B. A child or teenager’s excessive use of online services or bulletin boards, especially late at night, may be a clue that there might be a hidden problem.
4. Don’t be afraid to learn more about the interests of the people with whom your child is chatting.
THE HARD COLD STATISTICS
Unfortunately, too many people still believe anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa pose little threat and are primarily conditions that white middle class girls suffer.
The truth is eating disorders know no socio-economic or ethnic or national borders.
The facts are eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness and the mortality rate associated with anorexia nervosa is 12 times higher than for all causes of death for females 15-24 years of age.
Eighty six percent of sufferers report the onset of illness by the age of 20. This is the demographic that goes to the Internet for information and to socialize.
Once a sufferer has an eating disorder, she/he only has a fifty percent chance of being cured.
Those that are cured report suffering from their eating disorder from one to fifteen years, and it is estimated that between five and six percent of serious cases die.
DURATION OF ILLNESS/MORTALITY: –
77% report duration from one to fifteen years –
30% report duration from one to five years –
31% report duration from six to ten years –
16% report duration from eleven to fifteen years –
It is estimated that between five and six percent of serious cases die.
Only 50% report being cured
COST TO SUFFERERS AND THEIR FAMILIES
Treatment for anorexia nervosa and/or bulimia is often extremely expensive. For example cost of inpatient treatment can be $30,000 or more a month, and the cost of out patient treatment, including therapy and medical monitoring can be as much as $100,000 a year.
In addition there are the thousands of dollars a sufferer and/or her/his family may lose from lost time at work, the cost of transportation, and other related costs.
The mental hardship and anguish to the sufferer and friends and family are incalculable. Marriages are destroyed by eating disorders and families are damaged in ways that are irreparable.
HOW PARENTS CAN FIGHT THE PROLIFERATION OF ON-SITE PRO EATING DISORDER LOCATIONS
Join ANAD and make your voice count. Enlist as an ANAD Internet Militia Member. Help us raise the alarm and to….
Fight to get responsible corporations to police the pro ana and pro mia web sites, social networking communities, blogs, and forums.
Draw attention to those corporations who disregard the safety of your children by continuing to harbor online pro eating disorder locations.
Send emails to those corporations announcing your displeasure.
Send emails to the sponsors and to the advertisers found at those locations.
All rights reserved, Copyright 2008 by ANAD (The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders)