Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Should Pro-Anorexia and Pro-Bulimia Websites Be Closed?

The following article is from here: Pro-Anorexia Websites 'Must Be Closed'

Health experts have launched a campaign against pro-anorexia and pro-bulimia websites to coincide with the start of Eating Disorders Week.

Specialists from Affinity Healthcare, which operates one of the country's largest eating disorders units at Cheadle Royal Hospital, Cheshire, want the campaign to make people more aware of the dangers of sites that promote eating disorders. It also wants internet service providers and social networks such as Facebook and MySpace to closely monitor the worst sites.

Over 1.1 million Britons suffer from an eating disorder with 90% being women, although experts say this number is higher as many cases go undiagnosed. The rise of the internet and new media has played a significant part in the increase in people with eating disorders, with websites and social networking sites providing easier access to information on how to get thin.

A recent study found that young women exposed to pro-ana websites subsequently felt more negative, had lower self-esteem, perceived themselves as heavier and were more likely to compare their bodies with other women.

Dr Ty Glover consultant psychiatrist at Cheadle Royal Hospital said: "We are horrified at the content of these sites and the tips they give on how to be thin.

"People with eating disorders are extremely vulnerable and often have very low self esteem, so pro-ana and pro-mia sites can be very damaging as they are sending out the wrong advice.

"The sites promote anorexia as a lifestyle but in reality it leads to long-term damage such as osteoporosis, hair loss, kidney problems, periods stopping, bad skin, difficulty sleeping, tiredness, stomach pains, constipation and in the most severe cases, death."

What a slippery slope. As one of the commenters to the article said, should every site that gives people a bad idea be closed down? Well, no. But who gets to decide what should be allowed and what is not?

I am against censorship, but I do feel a strong responsibility to look out for victims. It makes for some interesting personal conflict. I don't think it's a great idea to have websites with detailed instructions for building bombs, or for killing people, for example. Not everyone who finds themselves on a pro-ED site is an adult. Not everyone knows the danger they are getting into. Not everyone is well. How can they be protected from being lured into danger?

My experience with the Kimkins scam taught me how people can get caught up in the idea of eating less, learning tricks to lose appetite, going lower and lower until they lose all perspective about what is good for them. Most don't even realize how little they are eating, or if they do they still think it's too much. They hear the constant hum of 'it's OK to feel sick from it', 'you'll be ok', 'it won't hurt you', 'you're tough enough for this', 'you want to be thin', 'being overweight is the worst thing that can happen to you'. People get drawn in, thinking they can just do it for a while and then quit when they're done. Then they find out they can't quit. I know this isn't quite the same thing as the pro-ana sites, but there are some interesting parallels, and I can see where being in an environment can lead a person to go farther than they could on their own.

What do you think about this topic? I'd love to know.


MrsMenopausal said...

It is a "slippery slope," but what alternatives are there when the youth are being exposed to "how to" information, treating anorexia as if it were nothing more than another diet to try? They are growing up with shocking images and misconceptions that are becoming the norm, the goal, the definition of beauty.
The statistics are frightening. Something has to be done. I'm not sure I know what that is, but I certainly am no fan of the pro ana/mia media, by any means.
It's legitimizing starvation for those who are suffering from anorexia or those who are teetering on the edge of decision.

OhYeahBabe said...

That's how I feel, too, Mrs. I don't know any answers, but letting people be harmed is wrong. The answer I want is for people not to have any desire for creating such sites, and that isn't going to happen. I just don't see how anyone joining these sites could give informed consent - certainly not within the categories of people these websites target.

MrsMenopausal said...

Though I'd like to see them all go away maybe restricting access, allowing only those 21 and above would make a difference, though I doubt it. You see underage kids all the time in places that have an age limit. I wish I had the answer.

Anonymous said...

I have been suffering with all the eating disorders for about 10 years now. I am a grown women with a 10 year old and I would love to change everything. The problem is the websites that give advice and I learn new tricks every day. I would love to know how to shut down all those websites that give advice on how to make you sicker. I went from 165 to 108 and still trying to lose weight. I didn't post this for attention or advice. I think it would help everyone suffering from eating disorders not to have such resources. If I can help in anyway with shutting these sites down please let me know, I would love to recover too.

Medusa said...

(((anonymous))) I just came across your comment, and wanted you to know that you're not alone in wanting the pro-ana/mia websites taken off the web.

You're absolutely correct in that most of those sites give tips on how to starve yourself, but don't warn of the deadly consequences, one of which is not consuming enough calories resulting in the body feeding on the heart muscle. And that is just one of the dangers.

Many of us are trying to get these sites shut down. If you are frequenting them, perhaps you could post on those sites the dangers of starvation diets. In addition to Kimorexia's blog, both my blog, Medusa and mrsmenopausal's blog, Weighing the Facts, have posts dealing with those dangers.

I wish you all the best in your journey to wellness.


OhYeahBabe said...

Thank you everyone for your comments. Anonymous, I do hope you can break free of the cycle you are in.

Medusa, do you think that posting about the dangers is really going to help? Nobody is there for that kind of advice, and it seems like things could get very hostile. What have you seen out there?

Medusa said...

OYB, yes, I do think posting about the dangers will help.

From my visits to these pro ana/mia sites, many of the people posting are very young girls who know nothing of the serious side effects of these starvation diets.

Though the responses to a warning post may be hostile, if just one person is made aware then it is worth ruffling a few feathers.

Many would be surprised at how effective the warning messages can be. This comment arrived on May 23/08 re one of my blog posts:

"Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "ARE YOU ANOREXIC / BULIMIC / PRO ANA / PRO MIA ?":

Thank you so much for posting this blog. I was searching for pro ana websites, because I was considering that lifestyle, when I came across your site. It made me realize how dangerous anorexia and bulimia really can be. You are truly making a positive difference in the world, and you have probably saved many, many lives through this blog.


MrsMenopausal said...

What a great comment you received, Medusa. That's wonderful!
I agree with Medusa. The more information out there, the better. I get many visits from pro ana searches and they end up staying and reading several posts. I don't know what they do with the information but they're going away maybe knowing a little more about it.
Though I think that it's important to get the information out there, I don't suggest that you, anonymous, post information if possible hostility will be detrimental to your recovery.
Have you visited Webiteback.com? It's an excellent site with great information and support. You can view sample threads from the forum page but you need to register to see the member forums. Please check it out. I think you'll like it.
Good luck to you.

Anonymous said...

Hi, it's me again. The one that has the 10 year old. Posting the dangers of doing certain things won't help. I know all the dangers and I still do it. It is so difficult to stop. I developed binge eating and purging from taking Prozac. I never binge ate until the medicine and I had gained almost 20 lbs. I have all the eating disorders but can't afford to go to a clinic to get help. The state took my insurance away because they said I made more than $200 dollars a week. It is crazy. I can't even go to the doctor because it is so expensive. Well, anyways thanks everyone for listening I don't have anyone else to talk to.

Medusa said...

Anonymous, there's a wonderful website called We Bite Back which offers wonderful online support to those struggling with eating disorders. Its members currently have eating disorders, are on their way to recovery, or have recovered.

Here is a blurb from the website:

"Want a roadmap to recovery? It isn't impossible if you have a support network! Find bulimic behavior returning like a bad habit? You might find a verbal, written purge helps you deal with the seed of the problem motivating your disordered eating habits. Wonder what it would be like to finally not be punishing yourself for punishing yourself in an endless cycle?"

Please take a moment and check it out. Here is the URL:

We Bite Back

Hope this helps, Anonymous. We're rooting for you.


Medusa said...

Anonymous, I missed mrsmenopausal's comment before I posted mine.

I see that Mrsmenopausal also mentioned you visit We Bite Back :^) It truly is a wonderful site and offers superb advice and support. I really hope you'll check it out and talk to others there who will do all they can to assist you. And it's free.

Anonymous said...

Hi, everyone it's me again. I checked out the website. I think that I am just not ready to gain the weight back. I am pretty sick today. I am down to 105 lbs and I feel horrible. I got my doctor bills in the mail yesterday they totalled to $1,025 so far. I can't afford treatment and I can't tell my mom how sick I am. She told me how disappointed she was with me already. I lost my job because I am so consumed with calories and weight. It can only get better, I guess. Anyways, thanks for listening to me again.

MrsMenopausal said...

Have you posted at We Bite Back? If not please do. Tell them how you're feeling and what you're dealing with. I'm sure there are others there who have been where you are both emotionally/mentally and financially. Please speak up and ask for help from others who know what it's like to go through what you are going through right now.

Are the bills you speak of hospital bills? If so, go in and see the financial department there and file for charity care. If you qualify you may not have to pay anything, or get a much reduced bill to pay. If it is private doctor bills ask them if they can reduce the amount or accept small monthly payments.

Some ED treatment centers offer scholarships for treatment. Do a search and apply to the ones you find.

Are you seeing a therapist? If you cannot afford one there are organizations that base their fees (or no fee at all) on your income (sliding scale, they call it). Ones that I know of are Catholic Charities and Jewish Family and Children's services (you do not need to be Catholic or Jewish to use either of these services). Call them and if they cannot help you ask them to suggest other places to try.

There are ED support groups for free that you can attend. Usually a small donation ($1) is accepted. If you cannot pay that is fine, too.

There are a bunch of links to resources, hotlines and websites that you can check out in the
right hand column of my blog. Scroll down. You should be able to find more information and ways to get the treatment you need by contacting them and explaining your situation.

Good luck to you. If I can help, let me know.
My blog: Weighing The Facts

MrsMenopausal said...

I forgot to add a few things, Anonymous...
If the bills are hospital bills and you do not have health insurance and don't qualify for charity care then ask them to see the prorated bill vs the actual bill. Hospitals charge by diagnosis. Many times you save because of it but many times your bill is actually lower than the prorated bill. If it is, you can choose to pay the actual bill.

Check for local and regional private charities. There are many out there and some will pay a one time bill or a need for ongoing medication if you can't afford it, until you find an alternative. They will usually have alternatives to suggest to you. (if you have a visiting nurses association contact them for suggestions for charities. They usually know most that are available). If you contact any and do not qualify, ask them to suggest other places to contact. They will probably know of more than what is publicly known.

If you have meds and cannot afford them find out the manufacturer of your meds. Contact their indigent program. You can find numbers for the companies on their websites. Your doctor would fill out a form and you'd get your meds for free.

If you have insurance but a high copay or no insurance at all, check with Walmart to see if your meds are on their $4 med list. You will be able to receive it for just $4.00. If it isn't on the list check with Costco and Target who have similar programs. Ask your doctor for as many samples as they can give or to give you a weeks worth at a time. Many doctors have a ton of samples from the drug companies that go bad because they're not used and are more than willing to give them to those in need.

Sorry that my responses have been so long, OYB.

Anonymous said...

Hi, it's me again. Well, I have found a job which I am so happy about!! I actually almost hit my goal weight. I am down to 103lbs but I feel good. Anyways, thanks for all the help and talking with me.

OhYeahBabe said...

Anonymous, can we have a name to call you by? I feel weird calling you anonymous, LOL!

I'm glad you found a job and that it makes you happy. Will you be able to get health insurance now? I hope so.

Don't sweat that $1000 too hard. The doctors will get by without it. Make payments of $10 at a time and they'll probably cut you some slack.

What is your goal weight? What is your plan for maintenance? What good eating behavior are you going to model for your pre-teen? No pressure - I just really want to know if you have thought about it and if you have something in place so you don't panic and throw yourself back into losing. Are there any free support groups near you? Have you checked out some of the resources we've shared? I hope so!

I wish you nothing but the best!

Heather said...

My name is Heather! My daughter has no idea what I do. She see's me eat and that's it. I do worry if she will develop an eating disorder but she eats whatever she wants and she don't worry, thank god. My goal weight would probaly be 98lbs but it changes as I lose weight, so I really don't know. I haven't checked out the resources, I want to get help but I don't want to gain this weight back. The thing is I meet this really nice guy and he tells me how wonderful I look, he does know about my disorder but he says he supports me. He says he thinks I look great, I have more good comments when I am skinny. It's a difficult situation.

Anonymous said...

Personally, I think there are some much, much worse sites on the internet that need to go first.

I am bulimic, I do not believe ED's are a lifestyle choice, but I'm not ready to CHOOSE to get help for my ED yet. I use pro anorexia and bulimia sites to find support from other people until I do feel strong enough to seek help. As I find the mental illness support sites really bully you into getting help.

I think, until you are really a part of the community on one of these forums, you don't really know how they work. It's not usually about people swapping purging tips or anything. Yes, they will swap tips on which foods are really low calories, but that will also happen on a generic dieting site. The main tips and tricks on there are how to hide your eating patters and weight loss and what foods are really low cal.

I think for people who already have ED's, it's a non-judgemental place to go, and not have to worry about what you say about your body. If I went to a generic weightloss site, and went 'I'm so fat, I really need to lose weight' at a UK size 8, everyone would have a go.

OhYeahBabe said...

Hi anonymous. I belong to many online communities, and I understand just what you are saying about non-judgmental support. I don't think that people who haven't experienced it can really understand how enriching that can be.

I see sharing "tips and tricks on there are how to hide your eating patters and weight loss and what foods are really low cal" as dangerous enabling more than support, but if you are choosing not to stop the behavior then I guess you can see it as support for that choice. But don't you find it scary that people who are teetering on the edge of being ill, or who are so young and think they can dabble with those tips and tricks for a while to get some weight off, can get caught up in all that support and the practices promoted and fall headfirst into an eating disorder? I know there is debate over whether or not that can happen, but I've seen it a lot!

It's an interesting debate for sure. Thank you for stopping by. I hope you don't think I'm attacking your support framework. Really I'm just afraid of it and the impact it can have on people who are less self-aware than you are.

Heather said...

Hi, everyone it's me Heather. I am so excited today!! I went to my mom's to pick my daughter up and I weighed myself. I weighed 99lbs. I didn't even realize I lost more weight, my battery died in my scale two days ago, so I couldn't weigh myself. Anyways, I am very happy with were my weight is going, there is no way I want to gain that back again. Okay, I will talk to you all later. Hope everyone is doing good!!

OhYeahBabe said...

Hi Heather. I hope you and your daughter are having a good summer.

What's your goal weight? And do you know how you'll maintain it when you get there? I hope you are enjoying the We Bite Back site! Great free resource there!

Heather said...

Me and my daughter are having a great summer. She goes back to school in about 2 weeks!! My goal weight is around 85, hopefully. I don't think about maintaining my weight because I don't want to stay were I am. Hope your having a good summer too!!

Medusa said...

Heather, you are on a very slippery slope to an early death, leaving your daughter without her mother.

It's obvious from your posts that you do not plan to seek help anytime soon and, in fact, are celebrating your continued deadly weight loss in this very public forum.

You know, it's not all about you. You have a young daughter who will be weeping over your grave. If for no other reason, get help because of her. It's not just your life you're playing with.

~ Medusa

Heather said...

My daughter is all I have and yes I do think of her. If I could control what I am doing I would certainly stop. Thanks for listening to me, I will no longer post nor come to this site anymore. I didn't have any intentions of offending anyone or recieving a comment like your last one. This is one reason why people with disorders visit Pro-ana sites.

Heather said...

My daughter is all I have and yes I do think of her. If I could control what I am doing I would certainly stop. Thanks for listening to me, I will no longer post nor come to this site anymore. I didn't have any intentions of offending anyone or recieving a comment like your last one. This is one reason why people with disorders visit Pro-ana sites.

Medusa said...

Heather, you did not offend me or anyone else. My comment to you was made out of frustration because although you admit you are unable to control your disease you have not yet sought help. Why is that?

All I am asking is that you get the help you so desperately need so that your young daughter is not left motherless.

My comment was made from a genuine fear for both you and your daughter. I hope you understand and will contine to keep us updated as to how you're doing. We are all very concerned for you both.

Please don't go away. OK?


MrsMenopausal said...

You're risking your life. You're risking the health and future of your daughter. It's not something easily ignored when responding to your posts. Please do not mistake this for lack of support for you as a person or for your wellbeing.
When a child is caught in the mix it has a way of increasing the feeling of urgency as so many children learn to see themselves through the actions, words, and choices of us mothers. They are influenced, silently taking in what they are exposed to, and left to sort it all out at an age where they are lacking the experience and understanding to do so.

Although you say your daughter is not showing any side effects of your ED, children live what they learn and are much more aware than we give them credit for. Your view of yourself, your weight, weight loss, food, the scale ... these are things she is exposed to daily. Her chances of experiencing a disordered relationship with food are greatly increased because of this. This hits a chord with us all and in good conscience cannot be ignored. So if responses are not composed in a way that you prefer when addressing the subject with you please keep in mind that the underlying sentiment remains a concern for you and yours. If any of us have offended you I hope that you will look past any possible lack of etiquette and still recognize the offer of support for your recovery and concern for your health.

You stated early on in your comments that you wanted to recover. Please take the steps that will lead you in that direction. It is so important for both of you. You can find many organizations, hotlines, and websites that will be of help here: Eating Disorder Help:Hotlines, Websites, Organizations Please check them out.

All the best to you, Heather.

Heather said...

Hi, guys it's me Heather.
Well, I am calling the doctor in the morning to go in either tomorrow or Tuesday. I am going to go get help. I am sorry for being mean to anyone, I had no intentions of doing that. Anyways, I will let you guys know how it goes and where I go from here. Thanks, everyone!!

OhYeahBabe said...

I'm glad to hear it, Heather. Please write down everything you want to say, so you don't forget anything or get scared. Good luck!