Secret languages and groups form the communities to promote eating disorders.
Have you ever heard of this secret language known as “Pro-Ana” or “Pro-Mia” that has been continually emerging on the Internet? Well, It is time to further expose this secret that continues to perpetuate and glorify the true darkness, despair, and imprisoning world of eating disorders.
“Pro-Ana,” known as pro-anorexia and “Pro-Mia”, known as pro-bulimia, are websites that promote these deadly eating disorders as a “lifestyle choice.”
These sites may initially be explored due to curiosity or even as a way to gain support or connect with others struggling with body-image issues and/or eating disorders. But instead what you see are images and words that definitely strike a cord and leave a lasting impression. The numerous images of emaciated models, the detailed descriptions of how-to tips, and the dark affirmations and poetry found on these sites are quite disturbing. Yet, for the individual suffering, these websites may provide almost a sense of community; a place where they no longer feel so alone, a place to find new ways to attempt to strive for even more perfection, and become even better at their eating disorders. For those struggling with body image issues and fighting their own critical and negative self-talk, for those spiraling downward into dangerous eating disorders, or those vacillating with recovery are easily lured into this dark world. Pro-Ana and Pro-Mia websites may validate the idea that it is ok and even desirable to have an eating disorder.Young women write the majority of these websites and they have become very popular amongst the teen population. Although many large search engines have worked to ban these sites, there are still hundreds that continue to pop up.
So, what do you do? We as a community, as parents, as significant others, family members, peers, and those courageous individuals on the path of recovery must become knowledgeable and involved.
Use your voice. Speak out anyway you can to share your Anti-Ana and Anti-Mia position. Use online forums, write letters, and volunteer at eating disorder treatment centers.
Be a role model. Pay attention to your own actions and behaviors and be willing to make your own changes.
Be responsible and proactive parents. Know what your kids are doing on the Internet. Loving someone means being involved and taking actions even if sometimes doesn’t feel comfortable.
Report Pro-Ana and Pro-Mia websites to the hosting ISP. Unfortunately, as long as a website promoting the pro-Ana movement includes a disclaimer stating that “those who are in recovery or those who are looking to become eating disordered should not enter the site,” it cannot legally be removed. However, there are many ISPs that are unwilling to take the risk that the website will be responsible for a death and are willing to shut down the site.
Read NEDA’s (National Eating Disorder Association) position paper on Pro-Anorexia and Pro-Bulimia Websites. http://www.NationalEatingDisorders.org
My name is Erica Ives and as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist specializing in the treatment of eating disorders, I believe that the lack of knowledge and true understanding is bringing this illness to epidemic proportions. Make a choice to become more pro-active. It starts right here and right now. For more information on eating disorders and treatment, please visit http://www.mindfulpath.com and ericaives.com to learn more about my background as a professional.