New report reveals real dangers of 'pro-ana' websites
Throughout the UK there are a number of men and women who suffer from eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia, and they might be increasingly vulnerable to 'pro-ana' websites. These are sites which promote eating disorders by encouraging the ideal of a "starved-to-perfection frame".
Recently, a report entitled Virually Anorexic - Where's The Harm? took a deeper look into the impact that these online resources can have. It was authored by Dr Emma Brown, senior lecturer in Childhood and Youth Studiesat University Campus Suffolk (UCS), who warned that parents and teachers need to be aware of the effect that these pro-ana websites can have on vulnerable suffers.
Many of these pro-ana sites started out on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Google Plus. They were loosely associated groups trading pro-ana tips and information. More recently, social media sites have started cracking down on pro-ED sites in an attempt to combat the disease. While many social media sites not ban pro-ana content altoghether, they can do little to stop the more traditional pro-ED sites.
While one might at first assume that a website could not have a particularly harmful effect, Dr Bond's report revealed that these pro-ana sites can actually have a significant and disturbing impact on sufferers of this illness. The content that pro-ana websites provide is often referred to as "thinspiration" because they perpetuate the belief that sufferers need to be as thin as possible. For example, they post (and praise) photos of extremely thin celebrities such as Keira Knightley and Victoria Beckham. Some even actively state that they do not want subscriptions from sufferers who are trying to recover from the illness as it "ruins their motivation".
Thinspiration blogs are not always as blatant about encouraging eating disorders as pro-ana websites, and sometimes even mascaraed as fitness sites simply encouraging weight loss.
Worryingly, pro-ana sites do not stop at simply encouraging thinness in this visual way. They also take an active approach by offering tips on weight loss, dieting and how to maintain an eating disorder, for example, telling readers how to avoid detection from their friends and loved ones. As well as encouraging the use of diet soda, diet pills and cigarettes to suppress the appetite, some pro-ana websites even hold weight loss competitions among their subscribers.Continued on the next page