Friday, February 19, 2010

The Ana Phenomenon

This morning, I was reaching into the closet for the hairdryer when I saw the scale on the floor. The little white square... I haven't weighed myself in over a year; I remember when we had to since the age of five in physical education class. I've gained a little weight since high school, but no Freshman 15 yet(another reason to love community college - home cooked food!) I've never had a weight problem, but I was completely floored when I learned that people could be self-procliamed as "ana." Being "ana" or even "pro-ana" (pro-anoxeric) is now a community and state of being, where fellow victims of anoxeria can support staying skinny.

Wait, these young people (mostly girls) are supporting eachother to STAY anoxeric? That seems to be the case, through web communities and online forums. These groups provide advice and wisdom to each other, and they even have gone as far as to create a list of Commandments for being an "ana." Some of their commandments include: "If thou aren't thin, thou aren't attractive," "Being thin is more important than being healthy" and "Being thin and not eating are signs of true willpower and success."

Now, if you read this like I did, it may be a difficult concept to grasp. People really think this way? People really put this on the Internet for others to take as factual information and strive towards finding it? It's a terrifying concept. These pictures and information come off as completely haunting.

Being "in the disorder" has become this new, exciting thing to do for this select type of group. For pro-anas, it provides them with a challenge, and something to maintain: being as skinny as possible. It is obvious that eating disorders are incredibly unhealthy, but what happens when they begin warping the thoughts of mostly teenage girls?

We all know how young women already criticize themselves harshly. When will we start working to take down and banish these groups from the Internet so that these thoughts can't continue to reach such a large audience? What can we do to make sure this epidemic doesn't get any more out of hand? Is there anything we can do?

For the time being, these communities will unfortunately continue to exist, grow, and influence countless of anoxerics. Although the sites tend to discourage anyone under 18 from viewing content, it can still be accessed by anyone. Sites such as these that have discussion boards lead conversations that include "What do you guys do about starvation headaches?" To us it may seem appalling that these things can be, and are taken seriously, but these are real people that need real help, not help from fellow "anas."


Melissa Blake said...

My sister suffered from anorexia and bulimia, so I've known about these groups for awhile. It just makes me so very, very sad!

RAY J said...

Oh man, I remember coming across a Pro-ana community a few years back - I think a roommate showed it to me. A few of us got on there and were trying to help talk some sense in there - I went the whole designer perspective and pointed out that A LOT of the photos from magazines they were using as "inspiration" were usually airbrushed and photoshopped...

It was just sickening to see this girls trying to reach 60lbs and the photos of them looking like a corpse with skin on.

It's just so sad to see to see that sites and communities like this exist! What is wrong with these girls thinking that is healthy??!?!

I Love You More Then... said...

What is wrong with our generation? Being thin is not attractive; Being healthy is! Thanks for making me aware.

Yum said...

Just a couple comments from a Pro-Ana person:

these young people (mostly girls) are supporting eachother to STAY anoxeric?

The thing is, it's part of the disorder to not want recovery, even among anorexics who aren't pro-ana. Recovery is terrifying. The "support" is more of a "I understand how you feel!" type than it is "you're bad if you don't starve!" Also, as a note, most pro-ana people are equally supportive of those who do choose recovery.

Being "in the disorder" has become this new, exciting thing to do for this select type of group.

Again, as a note, this isn't a "new" phenomenon - it is part of the disorder. Anorexia (and Bulimia) start to encompas your entire life, and at first it feels like a positive thing - because the short-term effects make you feel good. It's part of eating disorders that people aren't aware of.

I also want to note there are a number of different types of Pro-Anas. I've got an essay describing them if anyone's interested.

But thank you for being concerned and not judgemental. We genuinely do appreciate it.


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