The Pro-Ana and Pro-Mia Movement: The Danger of Pro-Eating Disorders Websites
WHAT DOES PRO-ANA AND PRO-MIA REFER TO?
If you type “anorexia” or “bulimia” into Google, the results will consist of help, information and support for people who are suffering from those eating disorders. However, if you type in “pro-anorexia”, or “pro-ana/pro-mia”, a very different image emerges. It always follows with titles such as “Starving For Perfection”, “Anorexic Nation” and “Totally in Control”.
- Pro-Ana and Pro-Mia sites refer to those websites that promote anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa lifestyles. Both sites expose and also encourage the damaging behaviour and attitude that forms part of these eating disorders. Some going as far to demonstrate how “to become” anorexic or bulimic, as if an eating disorder is a choice.
- The main harmful consequences after viewing any of the Pro-Ana and Pro-Mia sites, are the desire to lose weight and the body discontentment that will provoke to their readers even if they are nowhere near the eating disorder cycle. Therefore, the overall impact is very alarming and harmful.
- Overall, Pro-Ana and Pro-Mia sites merge the concept of reinforcing symptoms instead of helping the patients to “recover”.
WHY DO PEOPLE CREATE OR ACCESS PRO-ANA AND PRO-MIA CONTENT?
- First of all, the central aspect to highlight, is that many of the people who post and manage Pro-Ana and Pro-Mia websites and its content, are suffering from eating disorders themselves. So they consciously want to encourage people that are looking for advice, tips and support from fellow anorexics to help them become “better” anorexics.
- On the other hand, people who suffer from those eating disorders (anorexia or bulimia), access to those sites because it allows people with eating disorders to get together and support each other in their struggle to achieve their goals, not towards recovery but towards thinness, “perfection”, and “the perfect body”. They see it as a space where they feel understood and they can explore the complex feelings they are going through.
- The fact that eating disorders are incredibly isolating diseases, the internet can often become a “real” way of finding and connecting with other people. Some people who might be searching for help, may find themselves on a page that supports ongoing engagement in eating disorder behaviours.
#Proana and #Promia on Twitter
WHAT ARE THE THREE MAIN REASONS THAT MAKE PRO-ANA AND PRO-MIA CONTENT HARMFUL?
- It makes people feel more negative about themselves and provoke damaging feelings of competitiveness.
- It pushes people into setting unhealthy goals and rules for themselves to loose as much weight as they can.
- It tells people that they are accomplishing behaviour that is harming them by choice, rather than because they are ill.
WHY PRO-ANA AND PRO-MIA SITES ARE NOT BEING CENSORED?
- John Stuart Mill, in his book On Liberty (1859), introduced what is known as the ‘harm principle’, which has been interpreted as the idea that “freedom of expression can be curtailed only if the expression causes harm to others.”
- It would seem that Pro-Ana speech should be limited as it can harm others. However, its contradictory. What could be viewed as a positive thing is suddenly condemned since Anorexia is an illness that provokes isolation to its patients and with those sites they find a community of people who understand their day-to-day struggles and were there they provide support and friendship.
- However, all the people in the community share the common factor of having eating disorders and “make each other worse” by making anorexia competitive disorder. Although if we take away the one place people feel comfortable discussing their eating disorders, we risk further isolating people with eating disorders and blaming them to a life spent suffering alone. Pro-Ana communities don’t cause eating disorders, Anorexia and Bulimia are more complex than that.
- Even if they are seen as sites of self-expression, some servers such Yahoo, have simply stopped allowing certain sites to function. However, it has been ineffective in its goal of getting rid of Pro-Ana material on the web. Some sites now call themselves as “diet sites” instead of Pro-Ana, although they contain the same material and tips.
POSITIVE SUPPORT TO RECOVER
If you are looking for positive online influences that can help support your recovery efforts, stick with trustworthy sources in the community:
- Eating Disorder Hope Pro-Recovery Movement
- the National Eating Disorder Association
- Project Heal
- Connect with an eating disorder professional who can appropriately guide you through treatment