For anyone who’s ever visited a pro-ana site, the reason is clear: the content exchanged in these online communities is often shocking. They use images of emaciated models and celebrities as "thinspiration" for vulnerable girls, and include frank discussions of the best methods for achieving extreme weight loss.
Anorexia is the most deadly of all psychiatric disorders, and pro-ana websites can be especially distressing to family members and friends of those who are suffering from it.
But it is precisely because anorexia is so devastating — and so stigmatized — that such websites may be a boon to some of those who visit them. Like similar groups for addicted people who are not ready to give up drugs, they can provide a rare source of nonjudgmental support for people with eating disorders.
According to Daphna Yeshua-Katz, a doctoral student at Indiana University, who co-authored a new study on pro-ana sites appearing in the journal Health Communication, a close look at these sites reveals certain benefits: behind the exhortations to achieve bodily perfection or to glorify an often-fatal psychiatric illness, there are communities of people, mainly women, who understand each others’ demons.
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