Anorexia sites put sufferers at risk

Updated: Aug 22, 2012, 20:05 PM IST

Melbourne: Unauthorized "support" blogs for disorders such as anorexia and bulimia endanger the life of sufferers by giving them a false sense of security, psychologists have warned.

Recent US research has found some pro-anorexia blogs – which offer “thinspiration” through posting pictures of skinny models and weight data - can help relieve some of the stigma of the condition for sufferers.

But whatever the perceived benefits of blogging on the topic, Australian psychologists warn getting the support networks wrong will have devastating effects on this vulnerable group.

Sarah Spence of the Butterfly Foundation, a national organisation devoted to raising awareness about eating disorders, said in most cases photos and tips posted on such “pro-ana” sites encouraged the worst symptoms.

“Simple things such as looking at images of slim people, sharing and comparing weight numbers and discussing ways in which they may have lost the weight can start negative conversation which could then spiral into destructive behaviour by an individual,” Ms Spence said.

She said the dangerous and irresponsible blogs are easy to spot. They use photos that glorify extremely thin models or actresses, tips that encourage calorie counting or weight loss inspiration. They also use charts and numbers indicating low body weights or BMI.

The study has been published in the Health Communication journal.