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Pro-Anorexia Groups Masquerade as Support on Facebook

Pro-ana, or pro-anorexia, sites have been infuriating the Internet for years by proclaiming eating disorders are not disorders at all, but lifestyle choices. Just like my entire high school, they eventually made their way to Facebook, but according to Newsweek, the social-networking site du jour isn't having it. Facebook regularly deletes groups, citing promotion of self-harm and harm to others.

How's that working out? Not terribly, if you only measure the surface. None of my "pro-ana" or "ana" searches returned anything fruitful, but these groups are way too savvy to give it away in the title. Most overt pro-ana groups have become private or operate under less obvious names. The better to avoid turning up in search results.

But even while they hide beneath the radar, I didn't have to search hard to find "support" groups with people looking for dieting tips and tricks. "Don't always purge until the morning. And I'm packing the weight back on. Any suggestions?" That kind of support. It's like there are two conversations going on: one genuinely looking to break the eating-disorder cycle and another looking to perpetuate it.

To be fair, the majority are legitimate recovery groups. But unlike the more, um, "inclusive" groups, those focused on getting better openly and adamantly oppose pro-ana talk, clearly telling users to look elsewhere if they've come to post measurements and pictures.


Join The Conversation
smithsan45 smithsan45 8 years
Find the latest news and discuss the latest topics with members of the Bulimia and Eating Disorders Community. ---------- smithsan Bulimia News and Discussion Forum
adorKablefae adorKablefae 8 years
There's a comm on LiveJournal... several actually. And I mean... some of their tips (I morbidly looked through them, even though I'm not anorexic) are valid, but mostly it's just scary. I mean, after reading through it I started only weighing myself right after I got out of bed in the morning and used the bathroom- cause it really IS more accurate without that water weight... Anyway. That's not my point. But no, they're scary groups. As someone who has dealt with several friends with ED, I'm mostly just appalled that it's so easy for girls (and boys) with REAL problems to get the information that helps them on their way to becoming more sick. However I will say that some of those tips helped me get my friend to see that she WASN'T fat and that (once she really understood she had a problem, cause that's often the real issue) she was a healthy weight. I just wish the focus of those groups was to help people be HEATHY, not SKINNY. Cause they aren't synonymous, no matter what the media is saying.
Roarman Roarman 8 years
Anorexia is a choice just as much as being bi-polar is a choice. It is a mental disease. Nobody is anorexic because they want to lose weight, if that were the case they wouldn't get down to 85 lbs.
Shadowdamage Shadowdamage 8 years
"Also I'm finding pro-binge drinking groups and cocaine addict support groups that seem to be more about talking about how wicked awesome coke is." :ROTFL: Sorry, my dark sense of humor showing. As for Pro-ana, its not a lifestyle choice when your state of mind prevents that "choice" from being made within the confines of reality. I.E. what they see is not what is real, so the choice is not a choice based in reality, but illusion. CG, my heart goes out to you and good on you for succeeding in your battle.
crayolasky crayolasky 8 years
There are also groups out there for ED recovery and support groups for those who aren't pro-ana, but not necessarily recovering. People who haven't suffered from one don't understand. No one truly can believe its really a "lifestyle". It is a disorder. But there are also so, so many "triggers" in the real world. Trust me, I've been hospitalized a few times and have tried so hard to get better. But it is incredibly difficult to be healthy or "normal" when there are so many thin models and even everyday women/girls you see everywhere. A big "trigger" for me is having people giving up on me, leaving me, etc. It is NOT just about being "thin". And it is not difficult to be sucked in- and once you are it's nearly impossible to stop. You can easily learn the calories in everything, how many calories you're burning, etc. But as far as these Pro-ana groups go, I am pretty positive they are doing nothing to help themselves. It does not make you happy, and only keeps you from living. However, once it becomes an addiction, as well as a coping mechanism, it's not something you can stop (not on your own at least). It becomes second nature- that could possibly be why some people call it a lifestyle, even though it really isn't.
hithatsmybike hithatsmybike 8 years
"To play devil's advocate... could a possible benefit to one of those groups be that the membership to it on a public website might alert a anorexic's friends or family to the issue who may not have realized it before hand?" I would think so.
death-by-chocolat death-by-chocolat 8 years
"Addiction" is not a diagnosis in the DSM, but substance abuse and substance dependence ARE, and the clinician specifies at diagnosis which particular 'substance' is being used. If you want to get truly semantic, probably half of the DSM diagnoses could be offered as some version of an addiction. Some people are just 'addicted' to particular beliefs, which lead them into dangerous territory. Food for thought.
tlsgirl tlsgirl 8 years
These kind of groups are so destructive. As someone who was anorexic for a long time, it's often the "support" sites that end up giving out the most "tips" to girls with eating disorders. Even those that don't mean to often end up having a lot of triggers that can really set you back.
CYL CYL 8 years
So sad :( why...
cddlykoala cddlykoala 8 years
To play devil's advocate... could a possible benefit to one of those groups be that the membership to it on a public website might alert a anorexic's friends or family to the issue who may not have realized it before hand? Just a thought. Our sorority used facebook as evidence to deal with issues of alcoholism with girls unwilling to admit to it.
lorenashley lorenashley 8 years
how can anyone be pro anorexia?
popgoestheworld popgoestheworld 8 years
Perhaps it's an issue of degree more than anything. Addiction is a disease, and you can be addicted to anything... porn, food, cigarettes, shopping etc. But you can have milder forms of these problems that are more like choices and less like disorders. I guess that's what I'm saying.
foxie foxie 8 years
They may have deleted the main group that caused the media uproar, though, because I can't seem to find it.
bastylefilegirl bastylefilegirl 8 years
Ugh I knew the drunk passed out chick where still there...that's just as bad as pro ana sites. I guess things people don't understand i.e. anorexia provoke fear and disgust therefore you feel the need to remove it....however girls binge drinking, pictures of young women passed out in their own vomit is considered on some level normal and is allowed on facebook!
foxie foxie 8 years
Bast- I am definitely finding plenty of groups with galleries of passed out ladies. Not to mention, ladies drunkenly grinding on people and licking eachother and a lovely picture of what appears to be a young man pooping on the floor.
foxie foxie 8 years
Also I'm finding pro-binge drinking groups and cocaine addict support groups that seem to be more about talking about how wicked awesome coke is.
bastylefilegirl bastylefilegirl 8 years
Question, does facebook still allow pictures of drunk chicks passed out? Because I would say those should be removed too. If the site is going to be clean it should be clean all the way around that's the problem when you censor one thing you then need to reassess your stance on many other things.
geebers geebers 8 years
No you won't find smoking but you do find nicotine addiction in DSM-IV. There are obvious differences- but they are both addictions that many (not all) people have a difficult if not impossible time stopping.
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 8 years
when people ask me , how did you get over your ED, I tell them "I didnt" I just deal with it daily, and by daily, i mean hourly.
bastylefilegirl bastylefilegirl 8 years
I think that's what it is semantics. Unlike cancer which can be cured, addictions cannot making it even more of a hideous will always be an addict ( you will always be sick). Once you are treated you will be a recovering addict but you will have to work at it everyday, and do the "work" that is necessary to stay well for the rest of your life.
foxie foxie 8 years
I guess that's kind of off-topic for me to point out. My point is just that it's either all or nothing. Should facebook allow groups that promote unhealthy behavior? Should they ban all such groups? Where is the line? Etc, etc. Not that I have any real answers for these questions myself, just something I'm thinking about.
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 8 years
It is a "choice" in the beginning. but once into it? its no longer one. smoking and Anorexia. two completely different "addictions" you wont find smoking in the DSM.
foxie foxie 8 years
Tried to post a link, but it got flagged of course. Facebook allows "Fat sexy chicks" groups, which I'd argue are just as unhealthy as pro-Ana groups.
foxie foxie 8 years
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