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Pro-anorexia site clampdown urged

pro-ana.jpg Image courtesy of Ruth Gwily, see more at her site:

Campaigners are calling for social networking websites, such as Facebook and MySpace, to clamp down on pro-anorexia sites.

Doctors at one of the country's largest eating disorders treatment centres said they needed to act more responsibly.

The eating disorders charity, B-eat, said little progress had been made on combating "pro-ana" sites.

The networking sites said it was hard to distinguish between support groups and "pro-anorexia" groups.

But a spokesperson for MySpace said they were working with organisations such as B-eat.

Over 1.1 million Britons are known to suffer from an eating disorder.

The vast majority are women, although experts believe the numbers could actually be much higher as many cases go undiagnosed.

Social networking sites can censor their material and we expect them to act responsibly
Dr Ty Glover, consultant psychiatrist

Specialists and charities say the rise of the internet and new media has played a significant part in providing easier access to information on how to get thin.

Research has shown that young women exposed to pro-ana websites felt more negative, had lower self-esteem, perceived themselves as heavier and were more likely to compare their bodies with other women.

'Common theme'

Dr Ty Glover, consultant psychiatrist on the Eating Disorders Unit at Cheadle Royal Hospital, said it had proven difficult to shut down pro-ana websites, but the situation was slightly different for sites such as Facebook.

"Social networking sites can censor their material and we expect them to act responsibly," he said.

Rather than censor these groups, we are working to create partnership
MySpace spokesperson

"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."

It is thought there are more than 500 pro-ana and pro-mia internet sites.

Cheadle MP Mark Hunter has asked the government to promote awareness of the dangers of such websites.

"These websites are truly despicable and only help to reinforce the myth that having an eating disorder isn't a problem," he said.

Susan Ringwood from B-eat, who are due to launch a report this week calling for better support for families of people with eating disorders, said the websites encouraged people to avoid treatment.

"We believe that the sites should act responsibly.

"They have acted to remove other content that is seen as 'dangerous', or could encourage young people to do dangerous things."

She said they were not calling for such sites to be banned completely, but for greater awareness of the dangers and for more support online so the sites are not the "only refuge".

But Shannon Bonnette, who is recovering from anorexia, told the BBC that looking at anorexia web pages actually helped her overcome the illness.

"What I found through visiting those site was that there was a common theme - everybody stays miserable," she said.

A spokesperson for MySpace said: "It's often very tricky to distinguish between support groups for users who are suffering from eating disorders and groups that might be termed as "pro" anorexia or bulimia.

"Rather than censor these groups, we are working to create partnerships with organisations like B-eat.

"We have also placed ads on pro-anorexia profiles for up to a year from the National Eating Disorder Association to target these groups with positive messaging about how and where they can get help."

A spokesperson for Facebook said the site supported the free flow of information.

"Many Facebook groups relate to controversial topics; this alone is not a reason to disable a group.

"In cases where content is reported and found to violate the site's terms of use, Facebook will remove it."

BBC news article, 24.2.08 ,

other articles of interest: 

Reader Comments (12)

It baffles me that girls no longer believe anorexia is something to hide, but rather is something to share with others. Poor souls.
February 28, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle
THIS SIGHT IS AMAZING. thanks for showing girls that the CAN love their bodies!
March 1, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCinni
I used to spend up to 12 hours a day on pro-ana sites, looking at pictures, getting encouragement to starve from the other girls who I thought were my "friends." What I didn't realize at the time was that I was killing them and they were killing me. I was telling the 85-pound mothers of young children to lose more weight. Often girls would disppear from the site. Had my encouragement killed them? It is a guilt I will never live down.
Today I am actively against pro-anorexic sites. I am as vocal as I have the opportunity to be in helping girls out of that terrible world and into recovery.
I have to mention, which is a post-pro-ana website. The moderator is an amazing woman who is devoted to seeing the end of eating disorders and pro-anorexic websites. It is a wonderful forum community for thse who have left pro-ana, like myself.
March 20, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMichelleV
I am sixteen years old and I don't know what to do anymore!!! I've suffered from ED since I was six and I don't know what to do anymore. It just keeps getting worse and worse. I don't know why I'm writing this, I just know I can't make up my mind on which path to choose.
April 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCatherine Pace
The answer to anorexia is not to close down pro-ana websites...they are merely a symptom and will disappear when we address the cause of anorexia itself...the supposedly bad, sexual female body, and the reduction of a young girl's image and experience of herself as an active, thinking, feeling, laughing, desiring, loving and loved being to a fragmented image of herself a collection of sinful, sexual body parts. We are not just body parts; we are spirited, embodied, mindful, soulful whole beings who must love ourselves and let ourselves fly high, for in that place, self-starvation and -mutilation become unthinkable
June 29, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterjane
well i am shocked to find on adult forums its a turn on for men/women who like to see woman boney and almost dying and for them this is the new porn they do not care that the women in the photos will die or are already dead. i am trying to find a way from closing the forum or this sick sub-forum....i know its easy to just not go on the site but i want to kick up some dirt and would be nice to beat them.
April 30, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterchris
Welll, this is really a problem worth of considering over and over agian....
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I can't believe it that there are site that support anorexia. Anorexia is a disease that can kill, if these poor girls do not start earting properly.

A handful of models have died from malnutrition in recent years - anorexia kills!

Thanks Anybody for getting the word out and for standing up against these wrong things.
February 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNikkita M
Anorexia is contagious enough without having internet sites that describe how to practice it, with encouragement for doing so. The least that should happen is that social networking sites such as FaceBook must discourage links to them - just as they would for child abuse sites. This is self-abuse.
May 25, 2012 | Unregistered Commentersandoval

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