Health Controversy: Thinspo and Pro-Ana Sites May Help Treat Eating Disorders?

by Lexi Petronis, Glamour

There's been a bit of a war waged on "thinspo" and "pro-ana" sites and images; Pinterest, Instagram, and Tumblr have all banned controversial photos that display extreme weight-loss or self-harm. But now a new study is turning everything upside-down with this claim:

Pro-anorexia websites may actually benefit people suffering from eating disorders. Researchers from Indiana University interviewed 33 bloggers from various pro-ana sites. Most of them reported that they write online about weight loss in order to "escape judgment"; the authors say that this feeling of belonging is critical in the treatment of their conditions.

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Says Nicole Martins, one of the study's authors: "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."

The study is the first that interviewed pro-ana bloggers; others have analyzed the writings that the bloggers have posted in order to get information. In this study, many of the women reported that writing about their illness improved their mood and helped them feel unconditionally accepted, with other bloggers offering support, sympathy, and encouragement.

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Only 10 percent of the bloggers identified their anorexia as a "lifestyle"; everyone else said it was a mental illness or coping mechanism, and they made active attempts to warn their audience about the content and ignore questions for help from "wannarexics." The bloggers also said that, when they were ready to go into recovery, they felt supported by their community to do so.

What do you think: is banning pro-ana or thinspo blogs and their disturbing images really the right answer? Do you think they're dangerous, or do you agree they could be helpful?

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