No one with an actual eating disorder wants to be ill, suffer or die but, sadly, too many do. Websites are in a position to support and guide those who are in danger to get the help they need, but not all websites are that helpful.
“Pro-ana” sites are pro-anorexia, and “pro-mia” sites are pro-bulimia. Such websites present these illnesses as a lifestyle choice and propagate the delusion that success can be measured by body weight alone. They even offer tips on how to conceal their illness from loved ones and doctors and how to avoid going in for treatment.
“Giving in to food shows weakness, be strong, and you’ll be better than everyone else” and “Thin is perfectin (sic), I’ll die trying to achieve it” are a couple of pieces of advice that one pro-ana website offers. (The most recent post on that site was made back in January 2014.) A pro-mia site advises using “3 fingers, it works really well” and so on. Similar to websites that advise readers how to commit suicide, pro-ana and pro-mia websites also seem to want to get rid of their readers.
The Social Issues Research Centre (SIRC) states that “a small but significant minority of sites are left unattended because their controller is ‘having to take it easy for a bit’ or ‘has gone into recovery.’” Further analysis by the SIRC revealed that every site contained some form of a disclaimer warning those with eating disorders not to view the material they post.
Eating disorders are not lifestyle choices, displays of self-control or pathways to social success. Eating disorders are progressive, life-threatening illnesses that destroy health, productivity and relationships. Mortality rates are high, and the risk of suicide for those with eating disorders raises mortality rates even further. Websites offering information on these illnesses should provide factual, responsible education about the true dangers of these conditions and the treatments that are now available.
To criticize pro-ana/pro-mia websites is not to suggest that obesity is a better alternative. Obesity is also a dangerous condition that has many health risks associated with it. The human body is designed to require nutrition, exercise and sleep to function at full capacity. Living a balanced life is the only alternative, and anyone, regardless of body weight, has the capacity to live a long and healthy life.
Sovereign Health of California is a leader in the care of individuals with mental illness, substance use disorders and dual diagnosis. We offer specialized treatment for those who struggle with eating disorders. We combine the most accurate and effective approaches to diagnostic assessment and treatment, providing optimal long-term outcomes. Comprehensive treatment includes novel, conventional and holistic therapies tailored for each individual, as well as an ongoing continuing care program. To find out more about specialized programs at Sovereign Health, please call us at our 24/7 helpline.
About the author
Dana Connolly, Ph.D., is a senior staff writer for the Sovereign Health Group, where she translates current research into practical information. She earned her Ph.D. in research and theory development from New York University and has decades of experience in clinical care, medical research and health education. The Sovereign Health Group is a health information resource and Dr. Connolly helps to ensure excellence in our model. For more information and other inquiries about this article, contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.