Breaking News: Supporting eating disorders harms girls.

While this isn’t really news to me, it’s good to know that the effects of pro-eating disorder sites are being recorded.
A new study from Stanford has found that pro-eating disorder websites such as “pro-ana� sites and the like may be more harmful to girls and woman with eating disorders. In short, girls are learning new ways to lose weight through the sites, which obviously feeds the illness and puts them more at risk.
One surprising thing that the study did find was that there may be a (smaller) trend of actual recovery sites that can teach girls new ways to lose weight as well.
The Academy for Eating Disorders is saying that the pro-ana sites should carry warnings. Perhaps this study and others that come after it will help make that a reality.

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  • a_human

    From all I can tell, eating disorders are pretty equal oportunity.

  • isfa

    How is it that they JUST figured this out? These online eating disorder communities have been around for a long time.

  • muchsarcasm

    The AED link in the article goes to the main page. The only thing I found there regarding this topic was this page, which doesn’t mention warnings on pro-ana sites. Is there another page on that site that I’m missing? Thanks.

  • jenpossible

    But pro-ana sites carry warnings already. Every one I’ve seen has a disclaimer that usually says something like “This site contains images/words/etc that may be triggering for those recovering from or at risk from eating disorders.”
    While pro-ana sites don’t usually encourage recovery, they also don’t encourage others to develop eating disorders.

  • isfa

    I agree that the websites don’t cause eating disorders, but I do believe (from personal experience) that regularly viewing them can reinforce the disordered thinking and strengthen a person’s resistance to treatment. If we can blame cigarette companies’ advertising campaigns for contributing to some people’s smoking addictions, then I think we can blame the creators and moderators of the pro-ana sites for contributing to some people’s eating disorders. Also, I am not aware of any current sites that encourage people to *develop* eating disorders, but that has not always been the case.

  • Lindsay Beyerstein

    The study conflates correlation and causation. It’s not surprising that ED sufferers who go to pro-ED websites are sicker than ED patients who don’t use these sites.
    The question is whether the ED sites make people sicker, or whether the sicker people are drawn to websites about not getting better.

  • isfa

    My guess (anecdotally) is that both are true- that sicker people are drawn to the sites AND that the sites make *some* people sicker. (Emphasis on “some”!)

  • Flamio Forelli

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