“Pro-Ana”: Finding the Light

“I wanted to have a voice that I didn’t have to censor for fear of upsetting people I knew or having them judge me.  For me, writing my blog was the only way I could have a shoulder to cry on or a way to celebrate my successes.”

“I think it was the fact that having an ED was so socially unacceptable that it pushed me to seek others that I could tell my story to.  That they would listen and tell me what I wanted to hear.”

-“Pro-Ana” Bloggers.

Community and comfort.  Both may be sought in the most unlikely places.  In a grey area that has risen as a battleground for many in the eating disorder community, the unexpected has indeed been discovered.  In a surprising study conducted by researchers from Indiana University, surveys have unveiled how there may be benefits to the controversial actions of “pro-ana” bloggers, the online group for individuals with eating disorders.

These results are strikingly contradictory to the latest condemnation by media coverage and social media sites.  We recently observed how sites like Pinterest and Tumblr have taken action to prevent the rampant spread of “thinspiration” boards and blogs.  The depiction associated with the actions of these communities is often one that is dangerous, hazardous…even menacing, as individuals involved advocate in favor of eating disordered behaviors.

Perhaps this is the tip of the iceberg, and new studies such as this are compelling us to look beneath the surface at the undeniable mass below.

Because of the stigma that saturates pro-ana communities, it can be seemingly difficult to understand how any benefit could possibly come from such groups, especially as an outsider looking in.  In this study that interviewed 33 people from the pro-ana community, many of the respondents described how their primary motivation for blogging was to gain social support, and most authors revealed how blogging about their illness and interacting with similar individuals created a feeling of belonging to a safe community, offering much needed comfort and understanding through this online source.  Researchers stated: “These communities are providing support, albeit supporting an illness that may result in someone’s death.  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.”  Interestingly, while most protestors against pro-ana websites and blogs claim that these communities promote and maintain anorexia by sharing tips for weight loss and concealing the disorder, only five bloggers interviewed for this study indicated this as a reason for beginning their blogs.

Perhaps it is time to rethink the way we view these cries for help as this issue comes into greater light.  Eating disorder sufferers are in need of being understood and embraced, particularly as these diseases are encumbered with shame and isolation.  This begs the question: Does outright banning of pro-ana sites contribute to this shame and segregation?  While pro-ana blogs and communities can undoubtedly be precarious instruments for enabling eating disorders, there may be something to be learned from these communities that offer unconditional support for both illness and recovery alike.

As a recovery based website, Eating Disorder Hope offers resources to eating disorder sufferers from every walk of life.  Regardless of your journey or your background or where you are in your path towards recovery, we hope that you can find love, acceptance, comfort and community here as well as other pro-recovery sites. The battle for freedom against an eating disorder is too often an isolated one, but you do not have to fight alone.

To read more about this study, please continue here.

Eating Disorder Hope is PRO-RECOVERY and we encourage eating disorder sufferers at all levels of recovery or contemplation of recovery to follow us on Face Book and allow us to gently inspire and encourage you!


About Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC

Jacquelyn Ekern founded Eating Disorder Hope in 2005, driven by a profound desire to help those struggling with anorexia, bulimia and binge-eating disorder. This passion resulted from her battle with, and recovery from, an eating disorder. As president, Jacquelyn manages Ekern Enterprises, Inc. and the Eating Disorder Hope website.