New websites have been popping up in recent years that encourage diseases like anorexia and bulimia. Parents need to add these to the list of things to keep an eye on their children for when they are using the internet.
An estimated 1 to 3 % of all women will become anorexic sometime in their lives, and 5 to 10 % of those with the disease will lose their lives to it. Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric illness, according to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders.
So it is frustrating to many that there are so many “pro-ana” sites, or websites that actually encourage the eating disorder. The sites are open in their expressions, with photos of deathly-thin teens, memoirs of anorexics, and support from others with the disorder. However, the support system they provide is not healthy, and certainly is not positive or encouraging. Those battling an eating disorder see the pictures as incentive to lose more weight, and read the accounts of others and feel they are part of an elite group because they have the disorder. There is no discouragement to dieting and trying to lose weight, only tips on how to shed more pounds, calorie counters, and “thinspiration” to further draw people in.
Treatment professionals are, of course, concerned with the pro-ana sites, which number at least 180 on any given day. Many have been shut down, but others keep popping up. The fact that so many teens use these pages to fuel their obsession means that we can’t ignore that they exist. Counselors have begun to familiarize themselves with the sites, to see where the teens are coming from, who is influencing them, and what draws them to the pages.
One thing that no doubt draws people to the sites is the support that they receive. Teens with an eating disorder often are perfectionists, have a goal-oriented family, and also have a negative self image. These teens tend to go to extremes when working toward a goal, and are willing to sacrifice even their health to reach that goal. So when a website glamorizes a sort of exclusive group of anorexics that are able to exhibit extreme control over what they eat, some teens get caught up quickly. Even when patients know that what they are doing is unhealthy, it is extremely difficult to turn an eating disorder around. After all, giving up the control they think they have means the possibility of gaining weight and giving up all they’ve done to get to that point.
The first thing patients need to do as they recover is find a real support group that can provide true and healthy encouragement. Many of these people need to feel the support and approval of others, and are strengthened when they hear the positive stories of other people recovering.
This article was written by Bethany Winkel
Joining the TSN online family in 2008, Bethany has used her skills as a writer to reach many people through her blog. Always eager to be a help to others, she is pleased to see her writing become a source of information, encouragement, and hope for those impacted by substance abuse. Bethany is happy to be involved with an organization that is making a difference in the lives of others. Bethany has also held the position of development coordinator for a nonprofit youth center for the past 6 years. With her expertise in grant writing, Bethany has raised over $1 million for programming that benefits at-risk youth. The happy mother of 4 young children, Bethany juggles her writing from home with spending time with her family. If her hours of research for her TSN blog articles have taught her one thing, it is to be an involved parent who takes time to listen to her kids.