I saw a headline this morning which really caught my attention: “Pro-Anorexia Blogs May Lead to Recovery“. Now, that’s not something that you read every day. I think it was just yesterday that I was tweeting about facebook removing “pro-ana” groups.
A little bit of information from mashable:
While anorexics’ posted writings and photos can be disturbing, study results revealed that pro-ana bloggers are looking for support, rather than trying to recruit others to follow their unhealthy path.
“These communities are providing support, albeit supporting an illness that may result in someone’s death,” Nicole Martins, research team member, said in a statement. “But until they’re ready to go and seek recovery on their own terms, this might actually be a way of prolonging their life, so that they are mentally ready to tackle their recovery process.”
It has been my experience (past experience! past!) that individuals on “pro-ana” blogs and forums don’t want to help each other die. Maybe that’s what they are doing, but it’s not the intent. Somehow they feel like they are coping and even helping others cope in that same way. Sure there’s a lot of “good job for not eating” posts and “thinspo” pictures out there… but I think there’s a camaraderie that’s meant to be positive. Eating disorders are really isolating, and you’re looking for someone to talk to about it — and when you’re in a bad frame of mind, you’re really looking for someone to support your sickness.
So, I agree with the first point. Now, the second quote… I’m not so sure about the idea of being ready to go and seek recovery on your own terms. My opinion on that is not mutually exclusive to pro-ana sites, though. In general, I think it’s irresponsible to just let someone hurt themselves until they feel ready to change. Sure, ultimately they have to do it for themselves, but you can’t just wait until that time comes. People die in that interval — and I highly doubt that pro-ana sites improve their mental readiness let alone prolong their life.
What I do think the sites do, is offer care / concern / support that could push an individual to get help. You make friends, and some of them get help. Some of them freak out on you and insist you get help. There’s a role that individuals on those sites play that family / friends in your everyday life aren’t (although they should be). I don’t think they have made some large mental shift about recovery and the value of their life… but they are choosing relationships over the eating disorder. They have enough trust and connection in these friendships to take a risk and get help, even though they might not really want it.
So, do I think that pro-ana sites could lead to recovery? Sure. Am I glad they are being removed from facebook and other places I would run into them? Yes.