Pro-anorexia forums are dangerous — but they can teach us a lot about community and understanding

In recent years, a cultural movement has emerged online that takes a positive attitude toward eating disorders. So-called pro-anorexia (or, more commonly, ‘pro-ana’) organizations differ widely. Whereas the majority claim to provide a non-judgmental environment for those diagnosed with anorexia, others go further, denying that eating disorders are mental illnesses and casting them instead as ‘lifestyle choices’ that should be respected by doctors and families. As a researcher and psychoanalyst who works with patients with eating disorders, I’ve spent considerable time on pro-anorexia forums carefully analyzing their content. Visiting a pro-ana website for the first time is a visceral experience.…

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